Pet Frog Salmonella Spans 31 States
CDC: Outbreak Sprang From California-Bred African Dwarf Frogs
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 7, 2010 -- Pet African dwarf frogs from a single California breeder
caused an 8-month salmonella outbreak in 31 states.
The outbreak extended from California to Massachusetts. Of the 85 cases,
mostly in children, 16 were hospitalized, the CDC reports in its weekly
MMWR publication. No deaths were reported.
Although reptiles -- turtles in particular -- have been responsible for
previous nationwide salmonella outbreaks, this is the first known multistate
outbreak spread by amphibians.
In this case, the amphibians were African dwarf frogs. The tiny creatures
are less than 2 inches long from tip to tail. They live in water and are sold
as aquarium pets.
The frogs are hard to handle -- they tend to rest at the bottom of aquariums
-- so most of the infections likely came from contact with the water in which
the frogs swam. Nearly a third of contaminated households cleaned the frog
aquariums in the kitchen sink, "posing a risk for cross contamination with food
preparation areas," the CDC notes.
Infections in Utah and Colorado came from frogs given away as carnival
prizes. An infection in New Mexico came from a frog purchased in a pet store;
one in Ohio came from a department store.
Many of those infected didn't know frogs or other amphibians could carry
salmonella. Many patients' parents had bought their kids frogs in order to
avoid salmonella-carrying turtles.
It took the CDC a long time to figure out that frogs were the source of the
outbreak, as cheese-flavored crackers consumed by several early patients led
disease detectives on a wild goose chase. Eventually, the frogs were traced to
a single California breeder. DNA tests showed that salmonella in water tanks
and gravel from frog habitats was the same strain that caused the outbreak.
The CDC notes that there's no law against selling small frogs. To prevent
infections, the CDC advises pet owners to wash their hands thoroughly after
touching animals or cleaning aquariums.