Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

CDC: Pet Rodents Can Carry Salmonella

15 Cases in 10 States Last Year; Wash Hands Thoroughly, Says CDC
WebMD Health News

May 5, 2005 -- Pet rodents are a potential source of salmonella, says the CDC, warning people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling hamsters, mice, or rats -- or their cages and bedding.

These pets were the source of salmonellapets were the source of salmonella in 15 cases of human infection and illness from December 2003 through October 2004, says the CDC. Those cases were reported in 10 states: Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Six patients were hospitalized; none died. Symptoms included most commonly abdominal cramping (77%), fever (67%), vomiting (53%), and bloody diarrhea (20%).

The patients were all exposed to salmonella during the eight days before the illness started, and the salmonella bacteria was resistant to multiple antibiotics (ampicillin, chloramphenicol, streptomycin, sulfizoxazole, and tetracycline), says the CDC.

Young Patients Seen

Patients were 16 years old, on average; eight were 7 years old or younger.

Two of the people became infected and got ill from salmonella through secondary exposure. In other words, they got the infection from someone who acquired their infection from a rodent bought from a retail pet store.

The others acquired salmonella directly from mice or rats bought to feed to pet snakes (seven cases), pet mice or rats (four cases), and pet hamsters (two cases).

For instance, a 5-year-old Minnesota boy fell ill four days after his family bought a pet mouse. The mouse had become lethargic and had diarrhea immediately after purchase. Still, the boy frequently handled it and kissed it, says the CDC.

No common link was seen between the three main implicated pet distributors, which were located in Arkansas, Georgia, and Iowa, says the CDC.

Other Pets Can Also Carry Salmonella

Besides pet rodents, salmonella has also been linked to pet reptiles, chicks, ducklings, kittens, and hedgehogs, says the CDC.

"Each year, an estimated 1.4 million people in the U.S. have salmonellosis, leading to approximately 14,800 hospitalizations and 415 deaths," says the CDC in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That includes salmonella from all sources, not just pets.

Salmonella is found in animals' intestinal tracts. It can be transmitted by ingestion of feces, which can occur by eating contaminated foods or having contact with animals or their environments, says the CDC.

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing