Is that a bearded dragon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me: walnut/Salmonella edition

Inspectors and investigators have the best stories and FDA’s move over the past few years to post warning letters is a goldmine for food safety stories. Like the one Gregory Banes of Gold State Nut LLC received earlier this month. According to the letter, Banes was tugging the skin of a bearded dragon in his office during an FDA visit. And then he went to touch some nuts.DnYEv

Three of 100 environmental swabs we collected from your facility yielded Salmonella. One of the swabs was taken from a cross-beam directly above the belt where all shelled walnuts exit the shell cracker. Our investigators observed debris falling from this cross-beam directly onto the belt below where walnuts exit the cracker during operation. All cracked walnuts pass under this cross-beam.

Two swabs collected from the inside of the reptile enclosure in your office yielded Salmonella. During an interview in your office located within the packing facility, our investigators observed you holding a bearded dragon reptile and peeling off its skin with your bare hands. Following this interview, you were seen touching shelled walnut meats with your bare hands, without first washing your hands. Reptiles are known reservoirs for Salmonella.

Beyond the dragon handling, the company had lots of risk issues including a lack of hand washing tools, and cross-contamination potential.

Salmonella risk? Shop owner hit employees with bearded dragon lizard

A Florida man was arrested after authorities say he swung a bearded dragon lizard around his head and struck employees with the animal.

bearded_dragon_picBenjamin Herman Siegel, owner of Siegel Reptiles in South Florida, was caught Friday on video putting a bearded dragon lizard in his mouth, throwing the animal in the air and swinging the animal around his head multiple times, according to a Broward County Sheriff’s Office police report.

He was charged with two counts of battery and animal cruelty.

The police report said Siegel, 40, also hit employees multiple times with the dragon and threw Gatorade on them.

166 sick from Salmonella linked to bearded dragons

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that this investigation is over; however, the illnesses linked to contact with pet bearded dragons are expected to continue at a low level.

bearded_dragon_pic*Reptiles can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness.

*Pet owners might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from bearded dragons.

*It is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam.

*Simple tips on how to enjoy your pet reptile and protect yourself and your family from illness is available in English and en Español. 

*A total of 166 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Cotham (160 persons) or Salmonella Kisarawe (6 persons) were reported from 36 states since February 21, 2012.

*59% of ill persons were children 5 years of age or younger.

*37% of ill persons were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

*Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings linked this outbreak of human Salmonella infections to contact with pet bearded dragons purchased from multiple stores in different states.

*Bearded dragons are popular pet lizards that come in a variety of colors.

*CDC’S NARMS laboratory conducted antibiotic resistance testing on Salmonella Cotham isolates collected from ten ill persons and two bearded dragons infected with the outbreak strain.

*Nine (90%) of the ten isolates collected from ill persons were pansusceptible (susceptible to all antibiotics tested).

*One (10%) of the ten isolates collected from ill persons was resistant to ceftriaxone, an antibiotic used to treat serious Salmonella infections.

*The two isolates collected from infected bearded dragons were both pansusceptible.

Don’t kiss that turtle, stop touching that bearded dragon and stop touching yourself: CDC reports 132 sick in multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Cotham

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is collaborating with public health, veterinary, and agriculture officials in many states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Cotham infections linked to contact with pet bearded dragons purchased from multiple stores in different states.

bearded_dragon_picBearded dragons are popular pet lizards, native to Australia (sure, blame Australia), that come in a variety of colors. Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.

On January 22, 2014, CDC was notified by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services of a cluster of Salmonella Cotham infections with a high proportion of ill persons reporting exposure to pet reptiles. Since 2012, there have been 12 ill persons infected with Salmonella Cotham in Wisconsin, and 10 (83%) of 12 persons reported contact with pet bearded dragons. Wisconsin receives funding under the CDC FoodCORE (Foodborne Diseases Centers for Outbreak Response Enhancement) program. These centers work together to develop new and better methods to detect, investigate, respond to, and control multistate outbreaks of foodborne diseases.

Salmonella Cotham is a rare serotype. Searching historical Salmonella databases, CDC determined that Salmonella Cotham represents only 0.01% of all human isolates in the United States since 1963. Before this outbreak, typically less than 25 Salmonella Cotham infections were reported to PulseNet annually. Given the rarity of the Cotham serotype and the information gathered by Wisconsin, CDC conducted a search of PulseNet for all Salmonella Cotham infections reported since 2012.

As of April 21, 2014, a total of 132 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Cotham have been reported from 31 states since February 21, 2012. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows (listed in alphabetical order): Arizona (4), California (21), Colorado (2), Florida (3), Georgia (1), Idaho (3), Illinois (6), Kansas (6), Kentucky (4), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (5), Minnesota (3), Missouri (7), Nebraska (1), Nevada (3), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (3), New York (10), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (5), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (5), Texas (6), Utah (3), Virginia (3), Washington (4), and Wisconsin (12).

Among 132 persons for whom information is available, dates that illnesses began range from February 20, 2012 to April 1, 2014. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 79 years, with a median age of 2 years. Fifty-eight percent of ill persons are children 5 years of age or younger. Fifty-one percent of ill persons are female. Among 67 ill persons with available information, 28 (42%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

On March 25, 2014, CDC sent a questionnaire to the states involved in the investigation to obtain more detailed information from ill persons about recent contact with reptiles. In interviews, ill persons answered questions about contact with animals and foods consumed during the week before becoming ill. To date, CDC has received a total of 31 completed questionnaires. Twenty-seven (87%) of 31 persons interviewed reported contact with reptiles or their environments before becoming ill. When asked about the type of reptile, 25 (81%) of 31 persons reported contact with lizards; of these 25 persons, 21 (84%) specifically reported contact with bearded dragons, a type of lizard. The percentage of ill persons in this outbreak reporting contact with a reptile is substantially higher than the percentage of U.S. households that reported owning a pet reptile in a survey conducted in 2013-2014 by the American Pet Products Association (5.6%). State and local health departments are continuing to interview ill persons.

The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory has isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Cotham from samples from a pet bearded dragon and its terrarium (habitat) collected from an ill person’s home in Oregon.

Lynne Terry of The Oregonian reports Oregon scientists cracked the case after a baby in Marion County got sick. Emilio DeBess, a Public Health Division epidemiologist, decided to investigate. Taking time on his lunch hour in early April, he visited the home and collected nine samples, swabbing two bearded dragons and the surrounding environment. Eight samples turned up positive for the rare strain involved in the outbreak.

DeBess said the baby, who is less than 1 years old, had no contact with the reptiles, which are kept by the parents. The baby was not even allowed in the same room.

4 sick with Salmonella in Scotland linked to kissing bearded dragons

Kissing turtles can be bad – but that applies to all reptiles.

You see a cute gecko, I see a Salmonella factory.

Health chiefs in Scotland have issued a warning after four people were rushed to hospital with salmonella, thought to be caught from kissing their exotic pets. NHS Forth Valley has warned owners to avoid kissing bearded pet_bearded_dragon_kiss_h-461733dragons, as most reptiles carry salmonella in their gut without showing any signs of infection. 

This bacteria is then shed in droppings, which can quickly spread over the skin of pet lizards and other reptiles. 

As a result, any surface or object that the animal comes into contact with can be contaminated, such as toys, clothes, furniture and household surfaces.

NHS Forth Valley said that four people have been brought into hospital in the last eight months suffering from the illness after kissing bearded dragons and other reptiles.

Bearded dragons are native to Central Australia, but have become increasingly popular pets in the cold climes of Scotland.

Taking their name from their spiny throat projections, which resemble a beard, they are said to be great pets for older children, and can live for 10 years.

Babies and bearded dragons don’t mix: outbreak of reptile-associated Salmonella Tennessee, Germany 2008

 In early 2008, eight cases of Salmonella Tennessee were reported in infants in Germany; normally there is about one case per year.

Using a case–control study to identify the source of infection, German researchers report in the current issue of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases they identified 18 cases less than 3-years-old. Ten children were male; median age was 3 months (1–32 months). In 8 of 16 case households reptiles were kept. Although direct contact between child and reptile was denied, other forms of reptile contact were reported in some cases. Identical Salmonella Tennessee strains of child and reptile kept in the same household could be shown in 2 cases.

The researchers conclude that indirect contact between infants and reptiles seems to be sufficient to cause infection and should therefore be avoided.