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Pet Frogs Linked to Three-Year Salmonella Outbreak

Update Date: Mar 11, 2013 12:58 PM EDT

The African dwarf frogs linked to a California breeder has been identified as the cause of a three-year Salmonella outbreak that took place between 2008 and 2011. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that, because the frogs live for an average of 18 years, many of the contaminated frogs may still be in people's homes.

According to Health Day, the outbreak had been officially recorded in 376 cases in 44 states; 69 percent of the infected people were under the age of 10. While 30 percent of the people sickened by the outbreak were hospitalized, no one died, fortunately. Researchers believe that it is possible that thousands of people were infected with the strain of Salmonella; to test the strain of the disease, doctors require a stool sample, but many do not even ask for one. Experts at the CDC estimate that 16 people were sick for each one person tested, which could bring the total up to as many as 6,000 people.

A total of 61 percent of people with the strain of Salmonella reported exposure to the frogs, MedPage Today reports. However, only 27 percent of those cases actually had contact with the frogs. An overwhelming 60 percent of cases become exposed to Salmonella through the animal's habitat or water in the aquarium.

Though experts have long known that reptiles and amphibians, especially this African dwarf frog, can carry Salmonella, only 17 percent of people knew previously that they could suffer from the disease from contact with the animal. In fact, a third of people reported washing the animal's aquarium in the kitchen sink. In one case, a family reported washing the animal's aquarium in the same kitchen sink that they used to wash their child. They also kept bottles nearby. The child later became ill from Salmonella during the outbreak.

Families and homes with pet reptiles and amphibians should exercise caution. They should wash and empty aquariums outside, so as to avoid contamination of any bathtubs or sinks. Because children and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to Salmonella, these pets should not be in homes of children under the age of five.

Bacteria is responsible for the spread of Salmonella, which is characterized by abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever. It can last for several days, but may last for about a week. In severe cases, the illness can even lead to death.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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