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DHMH Press Releases : Health-Risks-Introduced-by-Baby-Animals2014


DHMH Reminds Marylanders About Health Risks Introduced by Baby Animals

Baltimore, MD (June 13, 2014) – With the start of the summer festival and fair season, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reminds all Maryland residents that baby animals, such as chicks, ducklings, turtles, and animals commonly encountered at petting zoos and fairs, including reptiles, can pass harmful germs, such as Salmonella, E. coli O157, Campylobacter and other bacteria, viruses and parasites. While petting zoos and fairs are a fun and educational way to learn about animals, they are also a potential source of these germs.
“Baby animals are cute, but cuteness offers no protection from germs,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, DHMH Secretary. “Always be sure to wash hands thoroughly after handling pets or animals at petting zoos.”
People visiting fairs, petting zoos, and other places where people can have contact with animals should be careful to wash hands after interacting with the animals and their environments in order to reduce the risk of animal-associated illnesses. In particular, children can be exposed to germs by holding, cuddling, or kissing their pets, or putting their fingers in their mouths after contact with animals.
Currently, DHMH is working with several states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate several animal-associated outbreaks. 
Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry
·         This outbreak, and similar ones in 2012 and 2013 linked to chicks and ducklings and other live poultry from the same supplier, has resulted in 126 illnesses and 35 hospitalizations in 26 states. To date, 2 Marylanders have been identified as having an infection associated with chicks and ducklings. While one Maryland patient was hospitalized, both patients have recovered.
Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Cotham Infections Linked to Contact with Pet Bearded Dragons
·         An ongoing outbreak of an uncommon strain Salmonella associated with pet bearded dragons has been linked to 132 cases in 32 states, including 4 cases in Maryland. There have been 55 hospitalizations associated with this outbreak, including 2 of the Maryland cases.
Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Linked to Frozen Feeder Rodents
·         Another outbreak of Salmonella is associated with frozen mice that are used to feed snakes and other pet reptiles. These frozen mice are packaged by Reptile Industries and sold through pet stores. There have been 37 cases, with 5 hospitalizations, from 18 states, including one case in a Marylander who was not hospitalized. 
Infections from animals often cause gastrointestinal illness. Symptoms are commonly diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, and sometimes headache and fever. These infections can be severe, sometimes leading to hospitalization and sometimes, but rarely, even death. The elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have complications if they get these infections.
In order to prevent infections associated with handling animals, DHMH recommends the following:
  • Recognize that all animals, including pets, farm animals and wildlife, can carry harmful germs.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after having any contact with any animals and their environment.
  • Do not prepare or eat food where contact with animals or their habitats is likely.
  • Avoid contact with animals and pets and their habitat if you are at high risk for complications from infections.
  • Call your health care provider if you develop an illness and have concerns about your health.
For more information about the recent cases linked to live poultry exposures: 
For more information about the recent cases linked to bearded dragon exposures: 
For more information about the recent cases linked to frozen feeder mice exposures: 
Additional information concerning infections and pets can be found at:
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