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DHMH Press Releases : Health Risks Introduced by Baby Animals

DHMH REMINDS MARYLANDERS ABOUT HEALTH RISKS INTRODUCED BY BABY ANIMALS

 

Baltimore, MD (April 3, 2012) –Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reminds all Maryland residents that baby animals, including turtles, chicks, ducklings, and rabbits, some of which are commonly associated with the Easter holiday, can pass Salmonella and other harmful bacteria to people.

Since September 1, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been investigating three ongoing Salmonella outbreaks all associated with turtle exposures, specifically red-eared sliders. Collectively, the three outbreaks have been linked to 63 individuals in 16 states. To date, six Marylanders have been identified as having an infection associated with the outbreaks. Five of the six cases were hospitalized; all have recovered. All cases reported baby turtle (turtles with shells less than four inches wide) exposure, with three reporting purchase from a neighborhood baby turtle vendor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration enforces a prohibition on the sale of pet turtles with shells that are four inches or smaller.

Each year, the CDC receives reports of individuals who have become infected with Salmonella following contact with baby animals. Children are especially susceptible and can be exposed to the bacteria by holding, cuddling, or kissing their pets, or petting animals on display at pet stores and other locations. Children are most susceptible to infection because they are more likely to put their fingers in their mouths and because their immune systems are still developing.

Persons infected with Salmonella bacteria may develop diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and/or abdominal cramps six to 72 hours after exposure. Symptoms commonly last two to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.

In order to prevent Salmonella infections associated with exposure to animals, DHMH recommends the following:

  • Recognize the risk of Salmonella infections in pets, including chicks, ducklings, rabbits, amphibians, reptiles, turtles and other animals.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after handling any pets, pet food, treats and water the pets may have been in.
  • Do not use kitchen sinks to empty or wash the pet’s habitat (e.g., cage, aquarium or tank). If possible, empty and wash the habitat outside of the home, using disposable gloves. If bathtubs are used for cleaning the pet’s habitat, they should be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected with bleach. Young children should not be allowed to clean the pet’s habitat.
  • If you are at high risk for serious Salmonella infection (children under five years old, older persons, pregnant women, or people who have weak immune systems, such as cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplants) avoid contact with animals and pets and their habitat (e.g., cage, aquarium or tank).
  • If you are at high risk for serious Salmonella infection (children under five years old, older persons, pregnant women, or people who have weak immune systems, such as cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplants) avoid contact with animals and pets and their habitat (e.g., cage, aquarium or tank).
  • Watch for symptoms of Salmonella infection such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps in yourself or in your family members. Call your health care provider if you or a family member has any of these symptoms.

    For more information about the recent cases linked to turtle exposures: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/small-turtles-03-12/index.html

    Additional information concerning Salmonella and pets can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/salmonellosis.htm

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