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Salmonella Infection (salmonellosis) and Animals

Important Tip!

Protect yourself against getting Salmonella from animals. Simply wash your hands with running water and soap after any contact with animal feces (stool).

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella germs can live in the intestinal tract of many different animals. Salmonellosis (sal-mohn-el-OH-sis) is a bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella. Most people have diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain that start 1 to 3 days after they get infected. These symptoms usually go away after 1 week. Sometimes, people have to see a health care provider or go to the hospital because the diarrhea is severe or the infection has spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites.

Can animals make me sick?

Yes, although Salmonella is most commonly transmitted through contaminated food, Salmonella is also one of many zoonotic pathogens that can be spread between people and animals. Animals can carry Salmonella and pass it in their feces or stool. Salmonella germs are shed in animals' feces and can easily contaminate their bodies (fur, feathers, and scales) and anything in areas where these animals live and roam. Therefore, people can also get a Salmonella infection if they do not wash their hands after contact with animals or their environment, such as touching contaminated animal bedding or tank water.

Many Salmonella infections occur in people who have contact with certain types of animals -- or "risky" pets. These include reptiles (turtles, snakes, and lizards), amphibians (frogs and toads), and poultry (chicks, chickens, ducks ducklings, geese, turkeys). Also, pocket pets (guinea pigs and rodents like hamsters), dogs, cats, birds (including pet and wild birds), horses, and farm animals (goats, calves, sheep) can pass Salmonella to people. It is important to know that these animals can carry Salmonella germs and still appear healthy and clean. Additionally, reptiles and amphibians that live in tanks or aquariums can contaminate the water with Salmonella, which can lead to illness in people. You should also know that some pet products, like pet foods and treats, can be contaminated with Salmonella and other germs. Pet food and treats might include dry dog or cat food, dog biscuits, pig ears, beef hooves, and rodents used to feed reptiles including frozen feeder rodents.

Who is most at risk for serious illness?

Some people are more likely than others to get salmonellosis. A person's age and health status may affect his or her immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick. People who are more likely to get salmonellosis include infants, children younger than 5 years old, older persons, and people with weakened immune systems such as people with HIV/AIDS or organ transplant patients and people receiving treatment for cancer. Special advice is available for people who are at greater risk than others of getting this disease from animals.

How can I protect myself from getting Salmonella?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching animals, their food (e.g., dry dog or cat food, frozen feeder rodents, etc.) or treats (e.g., rawhide bones, pig ears, biscuits, etc.) or anything in the area where they live and roam.
  • Running water and soap are best. Use hand sanitizers if running water and soap are not available. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water as soon as a sink is available. Directions for washing hands can be found here. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years of age, older individuals, or people with weakened immune systems handle or touch high-risk animals (e.g., turtles, water frogs, chicks, ducklings), or anything in the area where they live and roam, including water from containers or aquariums.
  • Keep live poultry, amphibians, and reptiles out of homes and facilities with children younger than 5 years old or people with weakened immune systems.
  • Don't eat or drink around high-risk animals (e.g., turtles, water frogs, chicks, ducklings), or in areas where they live and roam. Keep animals away from areas where food and drink are prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
  • Use soap or a disinfectant to thoroughly clean any surfaces that have been in contact with animals. Children older than 5 years of age should perform this task only under adult supervision.
  • Habitats and their contents, such as food and water bowls, should be carefully cleaned outdoors, if possible. If bathtubs must be used for these purposes, they should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with a bleach solution afterward.
  • High risk individuals should avoid cleaning habitats and their contents, but if unavoidable, they should use disposable gloves when cleaning and do not dispose of water in sinks used for food preparation or for obtaining drinking water.

How can I find out more about salmonellosis?

  • Learn more about salmonellosis at CDC's Salmonella website, which includes answers to frequently asked questions, technical information, and additional resources.

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