Salmonella linked to snakes, rodents

Salmonella linked to snakes, rodents

Canada’s public health agency says it is investigating an apparent link between a salmonella outbreak that began at least two years ago and contact with snakes and feeder rodents.

As of March 19, there were 70 confirmed cases of salmonella linked to the single outbreak, according to the agency.

“Ten individuals have been hospitalized. One person has died and provincial public health partners have confirmed that salmonella was the cause of death,” the Public Health Agency of Canada wrote in a news release.

Cases were identified in eight provinces: B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Those individuals became sick between February 2022 and February 2024. 

Many of those who became sick had direct or indirect contact with the animals beforehand, officials said. Some did not touch the snakes or rodents directly, but lived in the same homes where they were kept.

“A single common supplier of snakes or feeder rodents has not been identified,” read the release.Salmonella linked to snakes, rodentsThis chart, provided by Canada’s health agency, shows the number of people infected with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- and Salmonella Typhimurium in this outbreak between February 2022 and February 2024. In total, data are available for 70 cases of illness. (Source: PHAC)

The investigation was first launched in the spring of last year due to an increase in salmonella cases across the country.

Genome sequencing found cases dating back to 2022 were caused by the same outbreak strain identified in illnesses reported in 2023 and 2024. The agency says some people may have reported their illnesses some time after they actually got sick.

The agency says its data is based on when people reported their illness, not necessarily when they got sick.

Symptoms usually develop between six and 72 hours after exposure to salmonella bacteria. Symptoms may include fever, vomiting, headache and abdominal cramps.

“You can get sick with salmonella by touching reptiles and rodents, their food, and their environments and then touching your face, eyes, or mouth without washing your hands,” read the release.

“You can also get sick by touching contaminated surfaces or objects in a home or exhibit where snakes and feeder rodents are kept,” it continued. “This can occur at birthday parties, school or daycare events, museums, science centres, zoos, or at a travelling reptile show.”

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