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HomeNewsPublic Health Notice: Outbreak Of Salmonella Infections Linked To Snakes And Rodents

Public Health Notice: Outbreak Of Salmonella Infections Linked To Snakes And Rodents

KAWARTHA LAKES-The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections occurring in eight provinces. The outbreak is ongoing, as recent illnesses continue to be reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The outbreak is linked to snakes and feeder rodents. Many of the individuals who became sick reported having direct or indirect contact with snakes and feeder rodents (used as reptile food) before their illnesses occurred.

To prevent illness, individuals are advised to practice good hand hygiene, frequent handwashing, and safe handling of snakes and rodents, their food, and their environments.  This advice is based on the findings from this investigation and past outbreaks of Salmonella illnesses linked to snakes and rodents that highlighted the important role reptile owners and business operators can play in preventing new illnesses linked to these types of pets

This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.

Investigation summary

As of April 13, 2023, there are 45 confirmed cases of Salmonella illness reported in this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (1), Alberta (5), Saskatchewan (1), Manitoba (3), Ontario (22), Quebec (11), New Brunswick (1) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1).

Individuals became sick between February 2022 and March 2023. Nine individuals have been hospitalized. One person has died and provincial public health partners have confirmed that Salmonella was the cause of death. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 96 years of age. Nine of 45 (20%) of the cases are under 5 years of age. Approximately half of the cases (51%) are male.

The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated this spring because of an increase in reports of Salmonella illnesses in multiple jurisdictions across Canada. Using a laboratory method called whole genome sequencing, some Salmonella illnesses dating back to 2022 were determined to have the same genetic type as the illnesses that occurred in 2023. More recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between 4 and 6 weeks

Who is most at risk

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but children aged 5 years and under, older adults, pregnant people, or people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for contracting a serious illness.

Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. Some people can be infected with the bacteria and not get sick or show any symptoms, but still be able to spread the infection to others.

What should you do to protect your health

Reptiles and rodents can carry Salmonella. You can get sick with Salmonella by touching reptiles and rodents, their food, and their environments and then touching your face, eyes, or mouth without washing your hands.

To prevent the direct or indirect spread of Salmonella to others, follow the advice outlined in this section to help reduce your risk of becoming ill from contact with reptiles (including snakes), rodents, and their environments.

  • Always wash your hands immediately after touching a reptile or rodent, and anything they eat, or after being in the area where they live, play or touch
  • Regularly clean any surfaces or objects your reptile or rodent touches with soapy water followed by a household sanitizer
  • Never kiss a pet rodent or reptile
  • Do not keep reptiles or rodents in homes, daycare centers, schools, or other facilities with children aged 5 years and under
  • Always supervise children when they touch or play with reptiles or rodents
    • Do not let them put reptiles and rodents or their supplies near their face or share their food or drinks with pets
    • Make sure they thoroughly wash their hands after touching reptiles or rodents
    • Children 5 years and under should not handle reptiles or rodents
  • Do not clean or bathe reptiles or rodents in the kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, or bathtubs
  • Do not keep food used for reptiles or rodents in the kitchen or any room where people eat or drink
  • Keep reptiles and rodents and all their food, containers, enclosures, and any objects that have been in their enclosures, such as plants or enrichment items, away from the kitchen and other places where food is made or eaten
  • Do not keep frozen rodents in the same fridge or freezer as human food.
  • Freezing rodents does not kill Salmonella
  • Always defrost and prepare frozen rodents outside the kitchen, using dedicated utensils and containers
  • Be aware of the specific needs of your reptile. Stress for a reptile can increase the shedding of Salmonella
  • Always keep reptiles and live rodents in habitats specifically designed for them
  • If you choose to have a reptile or rodent in your home, talk to your health care provider or veterinarian about the right reptile or rodent for your family, especially if your family includes children 5 years and younger, pregnant people, immunocompromised individuals, or adults 65 years of age and over

Symptoms

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal, person, or contaminated product.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting

These symptoms usually last for 4 to 7 days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment. In some cases, severe illness and hospitalization may occur. In some cases, antibiotics may be required. People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. People who experience symptoms or have underlying medical conditions should contact their healthcare provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.

Epidemiological information

Figure 1 is an epidemiological curve for this outbreak, which shows the number of new cases by month. Outbreak investigators use this information to show when illnesses begin, when they peak, and when they trail off. It can take several weeks from the time a person becomes ill to when the illness is reported, and testing confirms a link to the outbreak. Data are available for 45 cases.

Figure 1 – Text Equivalent

Table 1 – Number of people confirmed to be infected
with Salmonella by month of illness onset or specimen
collection

Month of symptom onset or specimen
collection

Number of cases

January 2022

0

February 2022

1

March 2022

5

April 2022

1

May 2022

2

June 2022

4

July 2022

3

August 2022

3

September 2022

3

October 2022

6

November 2022

0

December 2022

6

January 2023

2

February 2023

6

March 2023

3

April 2023

 

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