Foodborne Outbreak of Salmonella Subspecies IV Infections Associated with Contamination from Bearded Dragons

Authors


  • Note: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sara Lowther, PhD, MPH. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, Mailstop G-37, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA. Tel.: +1 404 718 8574; Fax: +1 404 718 8585; E-mail: slowther@cdc.gov

Summary

Approximately 1.4 million Salmonella infections and 400 deaths occur annually in the United States. Approximately 6% of human Salmonella cases are thought to be associated with reptiles; Salmonella enterica subspecies IV is primarily reptile-associated. During 1–4 December, 2009, three isolates of Salmonella IV 6,7:z4,z24:– with indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns were identified through Minnesota Department of Health laboratory-based surveillance. None of the three patients associated with the isolates reported reptile contact; however, all had attended the same potluck dinner. Dinner attendees were asked questions regarding illness history, foods they prepared for and consumed at the event, and pet ownership. Cases were defined as illness in a person who had eaten potluck food and subsequently experienced fever and diarrhoea (three or more loose stools in 24 h) or laboratory-confirmed infection with Salmonella IV matching the outbreak PFGE subtype. Nineteen days after the event, environmental samples were collected from a food preparer’s house where two pet bearded dragons were kept. Sixty-six of 73 potluck food consumers were interviewed; 19 cases were identified; 18 persons reported illness but did not meet the case definition. Median incubation period was 19 h (range: 3–26 h). Median duration of illness was 5 days (range: 1–11 days). Consumption of gravy, prepared by the bearded dragons’ asymptomatic owner, was associated with illness (16/32 exposed versus 1/12 unexposed; risk ratio: 6.0; exact = 0.02). Salmonella Labadi was recovered from 10 samples, including from one bearded dragon, the bathroom door knob and sink drain, and the kitchen sink drain. The outbreak PFGE subtype of Salmonella subspecies IV was isolated from vacuum-cleaner bag contents. This foodborne outbreak probably resulted from environmental contamination from bearded dragons. Reptiles pose a community threat when food for public consumption is prepared in households with reptiles.

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