Kissing Your Family Pet May Hold a Dangerous Fate
May 28, 2005
Is there any perfectly safe pet? Perhaps not, for friendly, furry
pets like hamsters, mice, rabbits, gerbils and guinea pigs have
been blamed for salmonella-borne illnesses suffered by some 30 people
in at least 10 states.
According to officials, this is the first known outbreak of salmonella
illness tied to such pets (as salmonella infections are common from
reptiles) and reveals a previously unknown public health risk.
Many of the victims were children: six were hospitalized for vomiting,
fever and severe diarrhea, and some passed the illness on to others.
(The germ was resistant to five drugs spanning several classes of
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began its
investigation of the illness last year after a 5-year-old Minnesota
boy was sickened with salmonella after playing and kissing a pet
mouse that had severe diarrhea and later died. Tests indicated both
the child and the pet had a drug-resistant strain of salmonella--a
relative of the germ that causes typhoid fever.
What causes the strain to emerge? Diarrhea is common in rodents;
many animal dealers use antibiotics routinely to prevent this. Health
officials speculate such use may have spurred this multidrug-resistant
strain of salmonella to emerge.
Some CDC Recommendations:
Wash hands well after handling rodents, their cases or bedding.
(People should wash their hands thoroughly even after contact
with the family dog.)
People should not kiss pets or hold them close to their mouths.
Pets should be kept away from kitchens and food.
Francisco Chronicle May 5, 2005