One California pet frog breeder may be the source of a nationwide salmonella poisoning outbreak that has lasted for eight months.
Cases of salmonella that have sickened people throughout the United States have been linked to African dwarf frogs from one breeder. The pet frogs were subsequently given away as carnival prizes and sold at pet stores nationwide.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the pet frog salmonella outbreak started in April, and has affected at least 85 people, mostly children, in 31 states as of December 31. At least 16 people were hospitalized in connection to the pet frog salmonella outbreak.
The CDC says that the contaminated frog outbreak is the first known multistate case associated with amphibians, although there have been several such outbreaks connected to turtles and other reptiles. There have been three multistate Salmonella outbreaks connected with turtles since 2006.
The African dwarf frog connected to the illnesses is less than two inches long and lives most of its life in the water. It is sold as an aquarium pet. A number of state health departments and the CDC have found traces of salmonella Typhimurium bacteria in the aquarium tanks of the tainted frog illness victims.
Investigators, interviewing people who fell ill after handling the frogs or the water from the aquariums, were able to track the frogs back to a single breeder. The breeder sold a number of the frogs to a dealer who then sold them at carnivals out west and to pet chains and department stores. The frogs then spread from California to Massachusetts. The CDC has not identified the breeder nor any pet store or department store chains associated with the outbreak.
Salmonella poisoning involves exposure to a type of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing mild to severe infections. For most healthy adults, symptoms of salmonella poisoning typically resolve after a few days or weeks. However, young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of suffering severe infections after coming in contact with the bacteria. If not properly treated, some cases of salmonella infection can lead to hospitalization, dehydration or death.