Pet bearded dragons were linked to a salmonella outbreak, which sickened 132 people in 31 states. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the outbreak began in February 2012. Although nobody has died, 42 percent of those reporting the illness were hospitalized.
The outbreak is a specific concern, as a majority of those infected were under the age of six. In the course of investigation, officials discovered that many patients had contact with bearded dragons, which were kept as pets.
To assess the situation, those infected were asked to complete a questionnaire. Although only 31 patients have responded thus far, the results suggest bearded dragons caused a large portion of the salmonella infections.
Eighty-seven percent of the respondents said they had contact with reptiles before contracting the infection. Eighty-four percent of those patients specified that they had contact with bearded dragons.
According to the American Pet Products Association, more than five percent of households keep reptiles as pets.
As reported by Animal Planet, bearded dragons are native to central Australia. The tan and yellow reptiles have a “beard” which they can flare out to ward off predators. The fascinating lizards enjoy a varied diet, which includes insects, plants, and small mammals. Adult males can grow up to two feet in length.
In captivity, bearded dragons can live up to 10 years with proper care. They are popular pets, as they enjoy interacting with humans and are rarely aggressive.
Bearded dragons are gentle and beautiful pets, which require little maintenance. However, like all reptiles, they often carry and spread dangerous bacteria. Those who keep reptiles as pets are reminded to wash their hands after handing or touching the animals. It is also essential to sanitize all surfaces that reptiles come in to contact with.
The CDC suggests keeping all children under the age of five away from pet reptiles, their tanks, and any surfaces they touch. Children and adults with a weakened immune system should be specifically cautious.
Symptoms of a salmonella infection include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Although the infection can be treated with antibiotics, those with weakened immune symptoms are more susceptible to serious illness or death.
Bearded dragons can be fun pets. Unfortunately, salmonella is a serious consequence. Reptile owners are reminded to wash their hands whenever they handle their pets.
[Image via Shutterstock]