PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Bearded dragons, a common reptilian pet, have been linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that’s sickened dozens of people, including three Rhode Islanders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
An investigation into the outbreak revealed that 44 people from 25 states became infected with salmonella over the course of a year.
The illnesses were reported between Dec. 24, 2020 and Dec. 2, 2021. No one has died in connection with the outbreak, according to the CDC, but at least 15 people have been hospitalized.
Those infected include people ranging in age from 1 to 84 years old, with eight falling under the age of 5. The CDC said the vast majority of them either owned or came into contact with a bearded dragon the week before they fell ill.
“People reported getting their bearded dragons from various places, including pet stores and online,” the CDC said.
Investigators were able to trace the outbreak to bearded dragons by collecting samples from an infected person’s pet, according to the CDC.
When it comes to the number of cases reported, Rhode Island is among the top five states. Both Washington and Wisconsin have each reported four cases, while California, Oregon and Rhode Island have three respectively.
Both Massachusetts and Connecticut have each reported one case. None of the other New England states have reported any cases.
The CDC said bearded dragons, like other pets, can carry salmonella in their droppings. People can get sick by touching the reptile itself or anything in its environment, such as its cage, feeding dish or cleaning equipment.
If you own a bearded dragon or have recently come into contact with one, the CDC recommends the following:
- Washing your hands
- Don’t kiss or snuggle the bearded dragon
- Don’t eat or drink around it
- Keep it out of the kitchen
- Keep its supplies and habitat clean
Bearded dragons, according to the CDC, are not recommended as pets for children under the age of 5, adults ages 65 and older or those with weakened immune systems.