Investigation Details

Updated October 18, 2022

October 18, 2022

CDC and public health officials in several states are collecting different types of data to investigate two multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections with serotypes Vitkin and IIIb 61:z52:z53.

Epidemiologic and laboratory data show that contact with pet bearded dragons is making people sick in both outbreaks.

Epidemiologic Data

As of October 12, 2022, a total of 23 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Vitkin (10 people) and Salmonella IIIb 61:z52:z53 (13 people) have been reported from 15 states (see map). Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 24, 2021, to September 13, 2022 (see timeline).

Sick people range in age from less than 1 to 75 years, with a median age of 2 years old, and 10 (43%) are children under the age of 1 year old. Thirteen (57%) patients are female. Of 17 people with information available, 8 (47%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.

State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the animals they came into contact with in the week before they got sick. Of the 20 people interviewed, 11 (55%) reported contact with a pet bearded dragon before getting sick.

Laboratory and Traceback Data

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of these outbreaks. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS).

WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This means that people in each outbreak likely got sick from the same type of animal.

Salmonella Vitkin outbreak

  • Among the 6 people who reported contact with bearded dragons, 4 reported purchasing their bearded dragon from different pet stores. Investigators are working to determine if there is a common supplier of bearded dragons.

Salmonella IIIb 61:z52:z53 outbreak

  • Utah public health officials identified the outbreak strain from samples collected from a sick person’s bearded dragon and its habitat.
  • Among the 5 people who reported contact with bearded dragons, all reported purchasing or having contact with bearded dragons from different pet stores. Investigators are working to determine if there is a common supplier of bearded dragons.

WGS of bacteria from 22 people’s samples, four bearded dragon samples, and one sample from a bearded dragon’s habitat predicted resistance to ciprofloxacin; analysis of bacteria from one person’s sample did not predict resistance to any antibiotics. Most people with Salmonella illness recover without antibiotics. However, if antibiotics are needed, this resistance could affect the choice of antibiotic used to treat some people. Standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory is currently underway.

Public Health Actions

CDC is working with the bearded dragon industry and the pet industry to reduce Salmonella in bearded dragons. CDC advises that you always take steps to stay healthy around your pet bearded dragon:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle your bearded dragon.
  • Keep your bearded dragon out of the kitchen and away from areas where young children play.
  • Keep its supplies and habitat clean.
  • Limit young children’s contact with your bearded dragon.
Previous Updates

CDC and public health officials in several states are collecting different types of data to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Stanley infections.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback data show that contact with small turtles is making people sick.

Epidemiologic Data

As of July 19, 2022, a total of 15 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Stanley have been reported from 11 states (see map). Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 3, 2022, to June 24, 2022 (see timeline).

Sick people range in age from less than one year to 59 years, with a median of 7 years, and 71% of ill people are female. Of the 12 people with information available, 5 (42%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.

State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the animals they came into contact with in the week before they got sick. Of the 9 people interviewed, 8 (88%) reported touching turtles. Of the 7 people interviewed about the size of their turtle, 6 (86%) reported contact with a pet turtle with a shell less than 4 inches long. Of the 7 people interviewed about where they purchased their turtles, 6 (86%) reported purchasing their small turtles from online retailers. Of the 6 people who purchased their turtles online, 3 (50%) purchased from a website called myturtlestore.com.

Laboratory and Traceback Data

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. CDC PulseNet manages a national database of DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. DNA fingerprinting is performed on bacteria using a method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). WGS showed that bacteria from sick people’s samples are closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak likely got sick from the same type of animal.

On May 9, 2022, the Tennessee Department of Health collected samples from two small turtles in a sick person’s home for testing. These turtles were purchased from myturtlestore.com. WGS showed that the Salmonella on the turtles and their environment are closely related to bacteria from sick people.

WGS analysis of bacteria from 14 people’s samples, 3 turtle samples, and 3 environmental samples did not predict resistance to any antibiotics. One person’s sample showed resistance to tetracycline. Most people with Salmonella illness recover without antibiotics. However, if antibiotics are needed, this resistance is unlikely to affect the choice of antibiotic used to treat most people. Standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory is currently underway.

Public Health Actions

CDC advises that you always take steps to stay healthy around your pet turtle: wash your hands, play safely, and keep supplies and the pet area clean. Do not buy small turtles with shells less than 4 inches long, including online from myturtlestore.com.