Though of comparatively smaller dimensions, the described nationwide outbreak of human Salmonella typhimurium infections, attributed to tiny pets — African dwarf frogs — reminds of a previous nationwide salmonella outbreak spread by another tiny pet, similarly predominantly among children. This relates to the spread of several salmonella species, including S. typhimurium, by baby turtles, during the 1960s and early 1970s.
By 1972, about one in 25 households in the United States contained a pet turtle, and an estimated 14% of human salmonella infections, or 280,000 infections per year, were attributed to turtle exposure. This eventually led the FDA to publish in 1975 a prohibition upon the sale or distribution of small turtles in the United States, except for bona fide scientific, exhibition or educational purposes. The drastic step was followed by a sharp and sustainable drop in salmonellosis incidence among US children.
To avoid the need for such measures in relation to other reptiles or amphibian pets, particularly those which have gained wide popularity, their producers and distributors are required to try to develop and apply appropriate hygiene regimen, and authorities are to intensify their control and surveillance at source, namely in frog-breeding facilities, as well as in pet stores. Pediatricians, as rightly indicated by the paper’s authors, as well as vets, are encouraged to advise their clientele about the personal hygiene measures children are to exercise at home while and after handling the pets.
Arnon Shimshony, DVM
Koret School of Veterinary Medicine
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel Aviv, Israel
Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member
Disclosures: Shimshony reports no relevant financial disclosures.