Renewed Salmonella Warning for Reptile Owners; hundreds of patients in recent years

Nearly 850 people have fallen ill with Salmonella infections in recent years as part of an outbreak linked to feeding rodents.

The epidemic was first investigated in 2015 and most of the sick people lived in households with one or more pet reptiles.

The latest warnings regarding nursing mice are being distributed by Monkfield Nutrition Limited in the four countries of the UK. They are generally fed for reptiles – especially snakes and lizards.

The fattening rodents were imported from Lithuania and are sold in a number of retailers. They are considered an animal by-product and not a pet food, so they do not need to be free from Salmonella or other human pathogens.

Based on a 2016 assessment by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis had been ongoing since 2011 but was detected in 2015. From January 2012 to November 2016, there is had 275 human cases in the UK and 40 percent of them were under 10 years old.

Prevent the spread of salmonella
Dr Lesley Larkin, head of surveillance for the gastrointestinal pathogens unit at Public Health England, said salmonella can spread from carrier animals and cause disease in humans.

“Epidemiological investigations and whole genome sequencing have again confirmed the link between an outbreak of Salmonella in sick people and feeder rodents used to feed reptiles and certain other animals distributed in the UK by this specific importer,” said she declared.

“Just as with handling raw human food, there is an inherent risk of Salmonella when handling raw or frozen and thawed pet food such as mice, rats or chicks because freezing does not not kill salmonella. Additionally, most reptiles carry Salmonella in their intestines for months or even years after being exposed to contaminated food, which can spread to their owners and other family members.

“Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling frozen food and feeding your reptile, after handling your reptile, cleaning its vivarium, or other equipment such as soaking pools. Children should be supervised to ensure that they wash their hands properly.

PHE, the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the FSA have also updated the guidelines on reduce the risk of Salmonella infection from reptiles.

ASL participation
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has urged reptile owners who purchase feed rodents for their pets to take extra precautions to avoid contracting salmonellosis.

The FSA works with public health and animal health agencies, local authorities and the company. Monkfield Nutrition has contacted its customers to advise them of the problem.

Retailers are required by law to provide customers who purchase feeder rodents from Monkfield Nutrition with an information leaflet on the risks of Salmonella infection and tips for always washing hands as well as good hygiene when handling feed at home.

FSA incident manager Tina Potter said the leaflet was intended to ensure that animal handlers understand the potential risks of infection and have access to information to reduce them.

“We advise pet owners to follow good hygiene when handling pet rodents and reptiles to avoid the risk of contracting salmonella. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and act in a proportionate manner to ensure both public and animal health, ”she said.

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