Salmonella Risk From Pet Rodents
Wash Hands Thoroughly After Handling Pet Rodents, Their Cages, or Their Bedding
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 3, 2007 -- People can get diarrhea-causing salmonella
bacteria from pet rodents, experts warn in The New England Journal of
Usually, people get salmonella from contaminated food, but they can also get
it from contact with animals, note the CDC's Stephen Swanson, MD, and
In the journal, Swanson's team notes 15 people sickened by salmonella linked
to pet hamsters, mice, or rats in the U.S. between December 2003 and September
Thirteen contracted salmonella directly from the pets. The other two got
salmonella from people who had direct contact with pet rodents.
Six patients were hospitalized; four of the hospitalized patients were less
than 8 years old.
The cases spanned 10 states, had no apparent link, and involved a
drug-resistant type of salmonella.
Such drug resistance may be partly due to widespread preventive use of
antimicrobial chemicals in the "pocket pet" industry, the researchers
Tips For People With Pet Rodents
"Consumers and those who work with animals should be aware that rodents
can shed salmonella and should expect rodent feces to be potentially
infectious," Swanson's team writes.
"Handling of pet rodents is a potential health risk, especially for
children," they continue.
"To reduce salmonella transmissions, the hands should be washed
thoroughly with soap and water after handling rodents, their cages, or their
bedding," write Swanson and colleagues.
The CDC's web site includes these additional tips:
- Closely supervise young children who clean pet rodents' cages. Make sure
they wash their hands immediately afterward.
- Don't eat food or smoke while handling your pet rodent.
- Don't handle pet rodents in food preparation areas.
- Don't kiss your pet rodent or hold it close to your mouth.