OTTAWA, June 2, 2014 /CNW/ -
Why you should take note
The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with Provincial
public health partners to investigate an outbreak of salmonellosis
related to snakes and rodents used to feed reptiles, such as mice, also
known as feeder rodents.
The risk to Canadians is low, but anyone who is around snakes and their
food could be at risk if they don't take proper precautions to protect
The Agency will update Canadians when new information becomes available.
Outbreaks associated with reptiles and feeder rodents have been seen in
Canada, the United States and countries throughout Europe.
Reptiles and the rodents used to feed them can carry Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness.
Even having indirect contact with these animals or their environments
can put you at risk for developing Salmonellosis, for example, children
playing in a room where a reptile was previously allowed to roam.
The Agency and Provincial public health partners are investigating
illnesses of Salmonella Typhimurium with the same genetic fingerprint. In 2014, there have
been 20 illnesses reported in British Columbia (1), Ontario (16) and
Quebec (3). Three cases were hospitalized and have recovered. No deaths
have been reported. The investigation is ongoing but currently, 12 of
15 cases interviewed reported contact with snakes and feeder rodents.
The Agency routinely investigates multi-provincial gastro-intestinal
illness outbreaks, including different strains of Salmonella in an effort to determine if illnesses are linked to the same source. In
Canada, Salmonella Typhimurium is a common strain of Salmonella with an average of 750 cases reported per year to the Agency.
Who is most at risk?
Canadians who are particularly at risk for infection include babies,
children five and under, pregnant women, the elderly and those with
weaker immune systems. Young children are at higher risk of infection
because they often enjoy handling and interacting with reptiles and may
not wash their hands before putting their fingers or other contaminated
items in or near their mouths. If infected, young children are also at
increased risk for serious illness because their immune systems are
Infants and small children can even get infected without direct contact
with a reptile. Simply being in an environment where a reptile is being
housed or allowed to roam, or having contact with someone who has
handled a reptile without washing their hands prior to feeding or
touching the child, can get a young child sick.
What you should do
The best way to protect yourself from developing salmonellosis is to
practice good hygiene while caring for and cleaning up after your
reptile. Rodents and reptiles carry Salmonella as a normal part of their gut and can shed these bacteria into their
environments. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water
immediately after handling rodents, reptiles, or anything in the area
where they live or were handled. It is recommended that parents
supervise hand washing for young children. Any surface that a reptile
or rodent (live or frozen) touches is considered contaminated and
therefore needs to be cleaned with soap or disinfected with bleach.
The habitat and contents of a reptile tank should be carefully cleaned
outside of the home. Use disposable gloves when cleaning and do not
dispose of water in sinks used for food preparation or for obtaining
Reptile foods should not be kept in the kitchen or room where people eat
or drink. Dead rodents should not be kept in the same fridge as human
food and frozen rodents should be prepared and defrosted outside of the
kitchen using dedicated utensils and containers. Do not thaw frozen
feeder rodents in microwaves used for human food.
Keep reptiles out of homes with pregnant women, the elderly, those with
weakened immune systems, babies and children younger than five years
old. Reptiles should not be kept in daycare centers, schools, or other
facilities where children younger than five years old are present. If
children do come in contact with reptiles, always ensure they are
supervised so that they do not put reptiles or reptile-contaminated
objects near their mouths. Immediately following any interaction with
reptiles and amphibians, children should wash their hands while being
supervised by an adult.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after
exposure to a contaminated product. Symptoms include
These symptoms usually last four to seven days. In healthy people,
salmonellosis often clears up without treatment. People who experience
severe symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should
contact their health care providers if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.
What the Public Health Agency of Canada is doing
The Public Health Agency of Canada is in regular contact with its
federal and provincial partners in health as part of this
investigation. The Agency will work with its partners and take
appropriate action to protect Canadians if this event should escalate
and pose an increased risk to the health of Canadians.
SOURCE: Public Health Agency of Canada
For further information:
Public Health Agency of Canada