(NEXSTAR) – Bearded dragons, a common reptilian pet, have been linked to a salmonella outbreak affecting individuals in over two dozen states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.
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A CDC investigation has found that 44 people across 25 states were infected with Salmonella Uganda between Dec. 24, 2020, and Dec. 2, 2021. Those infected ranged in ages from 1 to 84 years old, with eight falling under the age of 5. Of the 37 individuals with information available, the CDC says 15 were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
In interviews with state and local health officials, 21 people reported owning or touching bearded dragons or their supplies in the week before they got sick. Those who owned a bearded dragon say they got them from various places, including pet stores and online.
Public health investigators were able to collect samples from the bearded dragon of one of the sick people. Salmonella on the reptile was found to be closely related to the bacteria of the sick people, according to the CDC, meaning those who fell ill likely got sick from touching a bearded dragon.
Two states, Washington and Wisconsin, have each reported four cases of salmonella the CDC believes is linked to bearded dragons. California, Oregon, and Rhode Island have each reported three cases. For a state-by-state breakdown of salmonella cases linked to bearded dragons, click here.
Bearded dragons, like other animals, can carry salmonella germs in their droppings, even if they look healthy and clean, the CDC explains. You can become sick from touching a bearded dragon or anything in its environment – like its cage, feeding dish, or cleaning equipment – and touching your mouth or swallowing the germs.
If you have a bearded dragon or come into contact with one, the CDC recommends:
- Washing your hands
- Don’t kiss or snuggle the bearded dragon
- Don’t eat or drink around it
- Keep it out of the kitchen
- Keep its supplies and habitat clean
The CDC reports bearded dragons are not recommended for children younger than the age of 5, adults 65 or older, and those with weakened immune systems. These groups are at a greater risk of becoming ill from the germs bearded dragons can carry.