Prairie Post (West Edition)

Salmonella outbreak possibly associated with reptiles and feeder rodents


Alberta Health Services (AHS) is investigat­ing an outbreak of Salmonella infections across the province, with links to reptiles and feeder rodents.

Twelve cases have been identified in four of five AHS Zones (North, Edmonton, Central, and Calgary). Investigat­ion findings have identified exposure to both snakes and feeder rodents (used as reptile food) as a likely source of the outbreak. Investigat­ion into the facilities carrying feeder rodents is still ongoing.

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

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

To prevent direct or indirect spread of Salmonella to yourself or others, follow these simple steps 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 with soapy water followed by a household disinfecta­nt any surfaces or objects your reptile or rodent touches.

• Never kiss a pet rodent or reptile.

• Reptiles or rodents in homes, daycare centres, schools or other facilities with children aged 5 years and under is not recommende­d.

• 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.

• Do not clean or bathe reptiles and rodents in the kitchen sink or in bathroom sinks or bathtubs.

• Keep reptiles and rodents and all their food, containers and toys away from the kitchen and other places where food is made or eaten.

• Do not keep frozen feeder rodents in the same fridge or freezer as human food. Freezing rodents does not kill Salmonella.

• Always defrost and prepare frozen feeder rodents outside the kitchen, using dedicated utensils and containers.

• Be aware of the specific needs of your reptile. Stress for a reptile can increase 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, pregnant women, immunocomp­romised individual­s, or adults 65 years of age and over.

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 and 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 and in others, 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 who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.

Even if snakes and rodents appear to be healthy, clean and show no signs of illness, they can still carry Salmonella bacteria. Having indirect contact by touching their environmen­ts can put you at risk for developing a Salmonella infection.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsibl­e for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainabl­e for all Albertans.

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