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CDC: Salmonella outbreak in 25 states caused by bearded dragons

Published Jan 12th, 2022 11:11AM EST
a bearded dragon is shown with its mouth open
Image: justin olthoff/EyeEm/Adobe

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Contact with bearded dragons kept as pets has led to a salmonella outbreak affecting at least 44 people across 25 states.

That’s according to a new warning from the CDC, which tied a 2020 salmonella outbreak to bearded dragons as well as hedgehogs kept as pets. The health agency says this is an active investigation that’s also led to 15 hospitalizations so far — but no deaths at present. “Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings even if they look healthy and clean,” the CDC’s warning explains. “These germs can easily spread to their bodies and anything in the area where they live and roam.”

Bearded dragon warning from CDC

The health agency’s warning continues by noting that people can get sick from touching a bearded dragon or anything in its environment. “And then touching your mouth and swallowing Salmonella germs.”

People can legally own bearded dragons — which are native to Australia — as pets in most of the country. Forbes, however, has pointed out that keeping one as a pet in Hawaii could earn you up to three years of jail time as well as a fine of as much as $200,000. Which is separate from the issue of it potentially making you sick.

Among the CDC’s suggestions for how to stay safe around a bearded dragon:

Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching or feeding one. As well as after touching or cleaning the area where it lives and roams.

Don’t kiss or snuggle it, and don’t eat or drink around your bearded dragon. That includes keeping it out of any place where you eat, store, or prepare food.

Salmonella outbreak symptoms

Also, “Clean your bearded dragon supplies outside the house, if possible … If you 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.”

The good news, if you can call it that, is that most people recover from a salmonella infection after four to seven days without needing any special treatment. It’s also important to know that symptoms usually start anywhere from six hours to six days after swallowing the bacteria. And, per the CDC, some people — “especially children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems” — might experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization here.

Meanwhile, these are some of the symptoms the CDC says to watch out for if you’re worried you might have been exposed to salmonella germs.

  • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as infrequent urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up
Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.