Posted June 1, 2005
Handling pet rodents is a potential health risk, according to a report published in the May 6 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Public health practitioners are urged to consider pet rodents as a potential source of salmonellosis.
During 2004, the Minnesota Department of Health's Public Health Laboratory notified the CDC, which publishes the MMWR, about the isolation of multidrug-resistant Salmonella ser Typhimurium from ill hamsters from a Minnesota pet distributor. The report describes two of the first identified human cases associated with the outbreak, summarizes the multistate investigation of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections associated with exposure to rodents purchased at pet stores, and highlights methods for reducing Salmonella transmission from pet rodents to their owners. This is the first documented salmonellosis outbreak associated with pet rodents.
Veterinarians, breeders, and distributors are advised to consider submitting specimens to clinical laboratories for Salmonella isolation if substantial diarrhea-associated morbidity or mortality occurs among pet rodents intended for sale. Heightened infection-control practices by pet stores and distributors, including routine sanitizing of animal transport containers and cages, may reduce transmission. These strategies could reduce the need for antimicrobials to prevent disease in rodents.
The report also states that transmission of Salmonella organisms may be reduced by thoroughly washing hands with soap and water after handling rodents and their cages. Young children who are unable to wash their hands reliably should be supervised.
For a copy of the MMWR, visit www.cdc.gov/mmwr/weekcvol.html and click on "Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Typhimurium Associated with Rodents Purchased at Retail Pet Stores--United States, December 2003--October 2004."
The CDC also released a fact sheet on how to choose a pet rodent and tips for preventing Salmonella transmission. The fact sheet is available online.