A recent salmonella outbreak linked to bearded dragons across the United States has prompted the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to offer advice on how to prevent future outbreaks.

Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella and appear clean and healthy. They shed the bacteria in their stool which can contaminate their body parts and habitat such as rocks, food, water, and bedding.

A person infected with Salmonella will suffer diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, with the illness generally lasting four to seven days. Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of serious complications.

The CDC recommends the following precautions when dealing with reptiles, including bearded dragons:

  • Supervise children’s interactions with the animal, including post-encounter handwashing.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap right after touching, feeding, or caring for a bearded dragon or cleaning its habitat.
  • Do not let the animal into areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Do not snuggle or kiss the animal, or touch your mouth, eat, or drink around them.
  • To prevent cross-contamination, clean items you use to care for your bearded dragon outside the house, if possible. Items you use to care for it may include tanks, food and water containers, and toys. If you clean these items indoors, do not clean them in the kitchen or other areas where food is eaten or prepared. Use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately.
  • Pick the right pet for your family. Bearded dragons and other reptiles are not recommended for children under the age of five, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems because they are more likely to get serious illness from germs that reptiles can carry.

The current outbreak in the United States has seen 44 people across 25 states infected with the strain Salmonella Uganda, with 41 per cent of those people having to be hospitalised.