Pet frogs were the cause of a number of salmonella outbreaks in kids over the past few years. According to a new report form the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 376 people in 44 states became sickened by salmonella in 2008-2011, due to contact with their pet frogs.
The CDC’s report, published today in the journal, Pediatrics, noted that almost one-third of the patients affected had to be hospitalized, and most of them were children.
"This was the first salmonella outbreak associated with aquatic frogs, and in this case the frogs are often marketed as good pets for kids," said Shauna Mettee Zarecki, the study's lead author from the CDC in Atlanta. "The majority of people didn't realize there were any risks from these amphibians or other amphibians, like turtles and snakes," she added.
Salmonella has made the news in recent years due to outbreaks caused by food — peanut butter and eggs are common culprits — but many people don’t realize that reptiles and amphibians can also carry the bacteria. In the case of these outbreaks, the CDC was actually able to link the infection to a particular type of frog, the Africa dwarf frog, a popular pet frog for kids. What’s more, they traced the infection back to a single frog-breeding facility in California, where inspectors found salmonella in the facility's tank water, tank cleaning equipment, water filters and floor drains.
The frog breeder voluntarily shut down his operation for a period while the facility was cleaned, but they resumed frog breeding in the summer of 2011. Still, CDC officials warn that since the African dwarf frog can live for five to 18 years, many of the infected frogs might still be in homes — and might still be infecting kids.
Symptoms of salmonella include prolonged diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and a persistent fever. CDC officials are warning parents that if they do have these frogs as pets, they should be careful to keep them out of reach of young children.
"If these aquariums are in homes, children under 5 shouldn't be allowed to clean the aquarium," said Zarecki. "Pets are wonderful. We think they're a great learning tool for children, but some pets just aren't appropriate for children or individuals," she added.