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By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Officials with the Public Health Agency of Canada reported this week that their investigation into a Salmonella outbreak, that has affected six provinces, is linked to exposure to both snakes and rodents.

Many of the individuals who became sick reported having direct or indirect contact with snakes, pet rats and feeder rodents (used as reptile food) before their illnesses occurred. The investigation is ongoing, and it is possible that other sources could be identified.

As of December 10, 2019, there are 92 confirmed cases of Salmonella Typhimurium illness in the following provinces: British Columbia (4), Ontario (16), Quebec (52), New Brunswick (9), Nova Scotia (5) and Newfoundland and Labrador (6). Individuals became sick between April 2017 and October 2019. Six individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

In Canada, Salmonella Typhimurium is a common strain with an average of 750 cases reported per year to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Both reptiles and rodents can carry Salmonella bacteria even though they appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. Even having indirect contact with these animals or their environments can put you at risk for developing a Salmonella infection.

Health officials say following these simple steps will help to reduce your risk of becoming ill from contact with reptiles, rodents and their environments.

  • Always wash your hands immediately after touching a reptile or rodent, and anything they eat, or after being in the area where they live, play or touch.
  • Regularly clean any surfaces or objects your reptile or rodent touches with soapy water followed by a household sanitizer.
  • Never kiss a pet rodent or reptile.
  • Do not keep reptiles or rodents in homes, daycare centres, schools or other facilities with children aged 5 years and under.
  • Always supervise children when they touch or play with reptiles or rodents. Do not let them put reptiles and rodents or their supplies near their face or share their food or drinks with pets. Make sure they thoroughly wash their hands after touching reptiles or rodents.
  • Do not clean or bathe reptiles and rodents in the kitchen sink or in bathroom sinks or bathtubs.
  • Do not keep food used for reptiles or rodents in the kitchen or any room where people eat or drink.
  • Keep reptiles and rodents and all their food, containers and toys away from the kitchen and other places where food is made or eaten.
  • Do not keep frozen rodents in the same fridge or freezer as human food. Freezing rodents does not kill Salmonella.
  • Always defrost and prepare frozen rodents outside the kitchen, using dedicated utensils and containers.
  • Be aware of the specific needs of your reptile. Stress for a reptile can increase shedding of Salmonella.
  • Always keep reptiles and live rodents in habitats specifically designed for them.
  • If you choose to have a reptile or rodent in your home, talk to your health care provider or veterinarian about the right reptile or rodent for your family, especially if your family includes children, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, or adults 65 years of age and over.