The Northern Sydney Public Health Unit is reporting an increase in the number of cases of Salmonella among toddlers and young children on the Northern Beaches and warn parents that bandicoot droppings may be the source of the infection.
Northern Sydney Local Health District’s Director Public Health, Dr Michael Staff said the outbreak strain, Salmonella Java, can be caused by accidentally ingesting material containing the bacterium. In the past few years young children on the Northern Beaches have been diagnosed with the condition after ingesting sand from public parks and child care centres.
He said testing and removal of the effected sand from play areas had controlled, but not eliminated, cases of the illness in recent years. Dr Staff said cases of Salmonella Java began appearing again in February, following several months when no cases had been reported.
“So far this year we’ve had 19 cases confirmed and while some have been traced to play area sand, it appears that many children may have been infected by contact with bandicoot droppings,” he said. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.
The vast majority of parents with sick children this year had reported increased bandicoot activity in their backyards: “They’ve reported conical holes in their lawns, which is a sure sign of bandicoot activity,” Dr Staff said.
The Northern Sydney Public Health Unit had inspected the backyards of several cases and bandicoot droppings collected at one property had tested positive for the Salmonella Java, Dr Staff added.
He believes children may be coming into indirect contact with bandicoot droppings while playing in their backyards. “Young children tend to put their fingers in their mouths a lot and this could transfer the bacterium to
them if they have touched a contaminated surface.”
Often confused with rodents, bandicoots are small, omnivorous marsupials. They are about the size of a rabbit, and have a pointy snout , humped back, thin tail and large hind feet. There are around 20 species of bandicoots, three of which are found in NSW.
Early signs of Salmonella Java poisoning include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains and diarrhea.
To prevent further spread of the illness, the Public Health Unit recommended parents of young children cleared animal droppings from areas where their children played, discouraged children from putting their hands or toys in their mouth when playing outside, and make sure their children washed their hands after playing outside.
Chicken wire mesh at least 50cm high and 15cm would stop bandicoots entering backyards.