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Investigation of a Salmonella Infection Linked to Rattlesnake Pills

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Contact: Media Relations,
(404) 639-3286

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have linked one person’s Salmonella Oranienburg infection to taking rattlesnake pills. Rattlesnake pills are often marketed as remedies for various conditions, such as cancer and HIV infection. These pills contain dehydrated rattlesnake meat ground into a powder and put into pill form. CDC recommends that you talk to your health care provider if you are considering taking rattlesnake pills, especially if you are in a group more likely to get a severe Salmonella infection.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that one person in Kansas became sick after taking rattlesnake pills purchased in Mexico. The ill person reported taking rattlesnake pills in the week before getting sick. Advanced laboratory testing called whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella that made the person sick matched the Salmonella found in rattlesnake pills from Mexico collected in an earlier, unrelated investigation.

Reptiles and their meat can carry Salmonella and make people sick. Past outbreak investigations have identified rattlesnake pills as a source of human Salmonella infections.

People in the following groups are more likely to get a severe Salmonella infection: People with weakened immune systems, including people who are receiving chemotherapy or have HIV; pregnant women; children younger than 5 years; and older adults. If you get sick after taking rattlesnake pills, contact your health care provider.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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