The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an outbreak of Salmonella is linked to pet bearded dragons.

According to the public health agency, at least 15 people in nine states reported being ill.

Four individuals were hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

“Got Dragons? Bearded dragons can carry germs, like Salmonella, that can spread to you and make you sick. Protect your realm and heirs, as children under 5 are at a higher risk of getting sick from germs from bearded dragons,” CDC Emerging Infections wrote.

“Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings even if they look healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread to their bodies and anything in the area where they live and roam,” the CDC stated.

“You can get sick from touching your bearded dragon or anything in its environment and then touching your mouth or food and swallowing Salmonella germs,” it added.

From the CDC:

Always take these steps to stay healthy around your pet bearded dragon:

Wash your hands

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching or feeding your bearded dragon and after touching or cleaning the area where it lives and roams.
  • Always wash your hands right after handling your bearded dragon and especially before holding or feeding a baby or a young child under 5.
  • Make sure children younger than 5 years old avoid contact with your bearded dragon and older children wash their hands after touching or feeding a bearded dragon.

Play safely

  • Don’t kiss or snuggle your bearded dragon, and don’t eat or drink around it. This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick.
  • Have a dedicated enclosure for your bearded dragon. Don’t allow bearded dragons to roam in the same spaces where your baby or young children crawl and play.
  • Keep your bearded dragon out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat, store, or prepare food.

Keep things clean

  • Clean your bearded dragon supplies outside of the house, if possible. These supplies may include its feeders, toys, and food and water containers.
  • If you must clean the supplies indoors, don’t clean them in the kitchen or other areas where you eat or prepare food.
  • Use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area right after.

If you are thinking of getting a pet bearded dragon:

Pick the right pet for your family

  • Bearded dragons and other reptiles are not recommended for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems. These people are more likely to get a serious illness from germs that reptiles can carry.

Food Safety News reports:

New York has reported four cases, Ohio and California have each reported three patients, and Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia have each reported a single patient. The outbreak strain is Salmonella Cotham.

“The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” according to the CDC’s outbreak announcement.

Nine patients are preschoolers.

Sixty percent of sick people are children younger than 5 years old.

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