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HomeNewsFatal Outbreak Of Salmonella Infections Linked To Snakes And Rodents

Fatal Outbreak Of Salmonella Infections Linked To Snakes And Rodents

ONTARIO-The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections in eight provinces linked to snakes and feeder rodents.

Officials say any of the individuals who became sick reported direct or indirect contact with snakes and feeder rodents (used as reptile food) before their illnesses occurred. Some people who became sick did not touch or handle the snakes or feeder rodents themselves, but lived in the same house where they were kept.

A single common supplier of snakes or feeder rodents has not been identified. The outbreak is a reminder that Salmonella bacteria can be found in many species of animals, including snakes and feeder rodents.

To prevent illness, individuals are advised to practice good hand hygiene and frequent handwashing after contact with snakes, feeder rodents 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.

The outbreak is ongoing and recent illnesses continue to be reported to PHAC. This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.

As of March 19, 2024, there are 70 confirmed cases of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- and Salmonella Typhimurium illness reported in this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (3), Alberta (10), Saskatchewan (7), Manitoba (3), Ontario (32), Quebec (11), New Brunswick (1) and Newfoundland and Labrador (3).

Individuals became sick between February 2022 and February 2024. Ten 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. Thirteen (19%) cases are in children 5 years of age or younger. Approximately half of the cases (53%) are female.

The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated last spring because of an increase in reports of Salmonella illnesses in multiple jurisdictions across Canada. Using a laboratory method called whole genome sequencing, it was determined that some Salmonella illnesses dating back to 2022 were caused by the same outbreak strain as the illnesses that occurred in 2023 and 2024. 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.

Symptoms

Symptoms typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria, and usually last for 4-7 days.

Symptoms may include:

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

People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can spread Salmonella to other people several days to several weeks after they have become infected, even if they don’t have symptoms. Salmonella can spread by person to person contact and contaminated surfaces. Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days without treatment, but it can also cause severe illness and hospitalization.

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms, contact your health care provider.

Those at higher risk for serious illness include:

What you should do to protect your health
WASH YOUR HANDS-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.

You can also get sick by touching contaminated surfaces or objects in a home or exhibit where snakes and feeder rodents are kept. This can occur at birthday parties, school or daycare events, museums, science centres, zoos, or at a travelling reptile show.

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 thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching a reptile or rodent, and anything they eat, or after being in the area where they live, play or touch
    • If visiting an exhibit or event with reptiles or rodents, wash your hands when you leave animal areas, even if you do not touch the animals directly
  • Clean any surfaces or objects your reptile or rodent touches with soapy water followed by a household sanitizer
  • Never kiss a pet reptile or rodent
  • Do not keep reptiles or rodents in homes, daycare centers, schools, or other facilities with children 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
  • 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
  • When possible, clean enclosures and accessories outside the home. If this is not possible, use a laundry sink or bathtub and thoroughly clean and sanitize afterwards
  • Clean or bathe reptiles or rodents in a dedicated plastic bin, not in the kitchen or bathroom sink
  • Freezing rodents does not kill Salmonella
  • Do not keep frozen rodents in the same fridge or freezer as human food. If this is not possible, keep frozen rodents in a dedicated container separated from human food
  • 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 or immunocompromised people, or adults 65 years of age and over

 

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