Don’t kiss frogs or turtles, whether it’s in a Disney film or not

On Jan. 7, 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a summary report regarding on a Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Associated with Aquatic Frogs — United States, 2009.

During April–July 2009, the Utah Department of Health identified five cases of Salmonella Typhimurium infection with indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, predominantly among children. In August,
CDC began a multistate outbreak investigation to determine the source of the infections. This report summarizes the results of this ongoing investigation, which, as of December 30, had identified 85 S. Typhimurium human isolates with the outbreak strain from 31 states. In a multistate case-control study, exposure to frogs was found to be significantly associated with illness (63% of cases versus 3% of controls; matched odds ratio [mOR] = 24.4). Among 14 case-patients who knew the type of frog, all had exposure to an exclusively aquatic frog species, the African dwarf frog.

On Feb. 1, 2010, the U.K. Daily Express published its version of the story, saying kids were getting sick kissing frogs by copying the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog. I knew it was far-fetched, but sorta fun and published an edited version as a barfblog post.

A couple of readers took me to task, but the original CDC report was solid. Leave it to Bill Keene, senior epidemiologist with the Oregon state Public Health Division, to wrap things up.

The outbreak has spread like the plague across the U.S. since the release of Disney’s film, "The Princess and the Frog," according to news reports and bloggers from Britain to Japan.

Problem is the story, which was fabricated from a whimsical quote in The Oregonian and on in December, is not true.

But the basic facts in that Oregonian story — 50 sickened, including many young girls, by salmonella traced to frogs — were just too good not to spin into a Internet sensation based on a quote by William Keene.

Keene said, cracking a verbal smile, that it’s not a good idea to kiss frogs, which carry salmonella.

But there is no evidence that girls are smooching the amphibians after seeing the movie.

"This is a totally mythical story," Keene said. "But it’s funny so it’s being picked up."

From the sensationalist Daily Express in Britain, which appears to have spun out the first story, the warning has fired up news sites, chat rooms and bloggers from Europe to Asia.