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AHS is investigating salmonella illnesses across four zones - including Central Alberta

Red Deer Advocate - 7/28/2022

Central Albertans are being advised not to kiss their pet rodents or reptiles — and to always wash hands after handing them — after a wide-spread salmonella outbreak in the province.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) is investigating 12 cases of salmonella-related illness in four of five AHS Zones (North, Edmonton, Central, and Calgary).

An AHS communications advisor said this is not related to a specific incident, such as visiting a reptile exhibit or pet store that houses snakes. The outbreak is linked to snakes in homes and the potential contact with mice being used to feed them.

So far, investigators have identified exposure to both snakes and feeder rodents (used as reptile food) as likely sources. Investigation into facilities carrying feeder rodents is ongoing.

Anyone can become sick with a salmonella infection, but children under 5 years, seniors, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for serious illness.

Symptoms usually start six to 72 hours after exposure and include fever, chills, diarrhea, cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting — usually lasting for four to seven days. In some cases, severe illness and hospitalization may occur and antibiotics may be required. People infected with salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks.

Those experiencing symptoms should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a salmonella infection.

Even if snakes and rodents appear healthy, they can still carry the bacteria so touching the animals or their environments can put people at risk.

AHS advises: Always wash your hands immediately after touching a reptile or rodent and anything they eat, or after being in the area where they live. Regularly clean and disinfectant surfaces or objects reptiles or rodents touch. And never kiss a pet rodent or reptile.

Having these animals in daycare centres, schools or other facilities with young children is not recommended. But always supervise kids if they do interact with reptiles or rodents. Do not let them put these animals, or their supplies, near their faces or share their food or drinks with the pets. Make sure they wash their hands after touching reptiles or rodents.

Do not clean or bathe these pets in the kitchen sink or in bathroom sinks or bathtubs. Keep all their food and toys away from places where human food is made or eaten. Do not keep frozen feeder rodents in the same fridge or freezer as human food as freezing rodents does not kill Salmonella. Defrost frozen feeder rodents using dedicated utensils and containers.

Keep reptiles and live rodents in habitats designed for them. And be aware of your pet's needs as stressed animals can shed more salmonella bacteria.

AHS advises talking to a health care provider or veterinarian about the right pet for your family, especially if there are children, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, or adults 65 years of age and over.