In a follow-up on two multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections with serotypes Vitkin and IIIb 61:z52:z53 linked to pet bearded dragons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that as of January 20, 2023, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Vitkin (12 people) and Salmonella IIIb 61:z52:z53 (20 people) have been reported from 20 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 24, 2021, to November 2, 2022.
Sick people range in age from less than 1 to 75 years, with a median age of 6 years old. Fifteen (47%) are children under the age of 5 years old, with 11 children under the age of 1 year old. Nineteen (59%) patients are female. Of 24 people with information available, 10 (42%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.
State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the animals they came into contact with during the week before they got sick. Of the 25 people interviewed, 16 (64%) reported contact with a pet bearded dragon before getting sick.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This means that people in each outbreak likely got sick from the same type of animal.
Salmonella Vitkin outbreak
- Among the 8 people who reported contact with bearded dragons, 4 reported purchasing their bearded dragon from different pet stores. Investigators are working to determine if there is a common supplier of bearded dragons.
Salmonella IIIb 61:z52:z53 outbreak
- Utah and Colorado public health officials identified the outbreak strain from samples collected from a sick person’s bearded dragon and its habitat.
- Among the 8 people who reported contact with bearded dragons, all reported purchasing or having contact with bearded dragons from different pet stores. Investigators are working to determine if there is a common supplier of bearded dragons.
WGS of bacteria from 30 people’s samples, seven bearded dragon samples, and 30 environmental samples predicted resistance to ciprofloxacin; analysis of bacteria from one person’s sample did not predict resistance to any antibiotics. Most people with Salmonella illness recover without antibiotics. However, if antibiotics are needed, this resistance could affect the choice of antibiotic used to treat some people.
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