Why your pet bearded dragon might make you sick

Salmonella outbreak in half the country is linked to the reptiles

Add bearded dragons to the list of pets you need to stop kissing, cuddling or eating around.

On Tuesday, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of a salmonella outbreak linked to the reptiles.

Bearded dragons can carry salmonella germs in their droppings even if they look healthy and clean, the CDC wrote. These germs can easily spread to their bodies and anything in the area where they live and roam.

Pet owners can get sick from touching your bearded dragon or anything in its environment, and then touching your mouth and swallowing salmonella germs.

The CDC reports 44 illnesses in 26 states so far, with 15 people having to be hospitalized. There have been no deaths linked to the outbreak.

Symptoms of salmonella:

  • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as not peeing much, dry mouth and throat or feeling dizzy when standing up
  • Some people — especially children younger than 5, adults 65 years and older and people with weakened immune systems — might experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization.
  • For more information about salmonella, see the CDC’s Salmonella Questions and Answers page.

What you should do to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands: Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching or feeding your bearded dragon and after touching or cleaning the area where it lives and roams. Adults should make sure young children are washing their hands.
  • Play safely: Don’t kiss or snuggle your bearded dragon, and don’t eat or drink around it. This can spread salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick. Keep your bearded dragon out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat, store or prepare food.
  • Keep things clean: Clean your bearded dragon supplies outside the house, if possible. These supplies may include its feeders, toys and food and water containers. If you clean the supplies indoors, don’t clean them in the kitchen or other areas where you eat or prepare food. Use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area right after.

In the past few years, the CDC has seen investigated salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard chicks and ducklings, pet hedgehogs, pet turtles and wild songbirds.

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