CDC warns of salmonella outbreak linked to bearded dragons in 9 states

A bearded agama or inland bearded dragon lizard sits in an aquarium at a biology exhibit during the Scientific festival OL (Open Lab) in Lviv. (Photo by Olena Znak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a notice about a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to bearded dragons. The outbreak has affected 15 people across nine states, resulting in four hospitalizations but no reported deaths.

The affected states include California, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Ohio, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. New York has reported the highest number of cases, with four individuals infected. California and Ohio have each reported two to three cases, while the remaining states have reported at least one case each.

Notably, 60% of the infected individuals are children under the age of five. The CDC advises against keeping bearded dragons as pets for children under five, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems, as these groups are more susceptible to severe illness from germs carried by reptiles.

Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings even if they appear healthy and clean. People can contract the infection by touching the bearded dragon or its environment and then touching their mouth or food, thereby ingesting the germs.

What You Should Do:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling bearded dragons or their environment.
  • Ensure children younger than five avoid contact with bearded dragons and that older children wash their hands after touching or feeding the reptiles.
  • Keep a dedicated enclosure for your bearded dragon and prevent them from roaming in areas where young children crawl and play.

What Businesses Should Do:

  • Educate customers about how to stay healthy around bearded dragons.
  • Learn how to protect customers and employees from Salmonella infections and other diseases transmitted between animals and humans.

About Salmonella:

  • Most infected people develop symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps within six hours to six days after exposure.
  • The illness typically lasts four to seven days, with most people recovering without treatment.
  • In severe cases, hospitalization may be required.
  • Children under five, adults over 65, and individuals with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness.

For more information on the outbreak and safety measures, visit the CDC's investigation notice here.