Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis Infections Linked to Pet Guinea Pigs

Final Update

Posted March 6, 2019 3:45 PM ET

This outbreak investigation has been completed. People can still get a Salmonella infection from guinea pigs, because these animals can carry the bacteria even when they look healthy and clean. Learn about Salmonella from small mammals and how people can reduce the chance they or their children get an infection.

Outbreak Advisory





  • CDC, several states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service investigated a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections.
    • CDC began investigating in December 2017 when CDC PulseNet identified a cluster of three Salmonella Enteritidis infections that whole genome sequencing showed were closely related genetically.
    • A review of the PulseNet database identified six more closely related illnesses dating back to 2015. These illnesses were added to the outbreak case count.
  • Nine people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from eight states.
    • Illnesses started on dates ranging from July 17, 2015 to December 15, 2017.
    • One person was hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.
  • Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that contact with pet guinea pigs is the likely source of this multistate outbreak.
    • Four of the seven people interviewed reported contact with a guinea pig or its habitat in the week before getting sick.
    • The outbreak strain of Salmonella was identified in a sample collected from an ill person’s pet guinea pig in Vermont.
    • Whole genome sequencing showed that Salmonella bacteria isolated from sick people and the guinea pig were closely related genetically. This result provides more evidence that people in this outbreak got sick from contact with pet guinea pigs.
  • Whole genome sequencing did not predict antibiotic resistance in 16 of 18 isolates analyzed (nine ill people and seven guinea pigs). One isolate from a sick person and one isolate from a guinea pig contained genes for resistance to streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Testing of five outbreak isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System laboratory confirmed these results.
  • This outbreak is a reminder that pet rodents such as guinea pigs, regardless of where they are purchased or adopted, can carry Salmonella bacteria even when they look healthy and clean. Follow CDC’s tips to keep you and your pet safe and healthy.
    • Pick the right pet. Pet rodents are not recommended as pets for children younger than 5 years, and should not be kept in childcare centers.
    • Always wash your hands after touching, feeding, or caring for pet rodents or cleaning their habitats.
    • Read more tips in the Advice to Pet Owners.
  • Pick the right pet for you.
  • Pet rodents, including guinea pigs, are not recommended for families with children younger than 5 years, pregnant women, elderly adults, or people with weakened immune systems because these groups are at greater risk for serious illness.
  • Pet rodents should not be kept in childcare centers, schools, or other facilities with children younger than 5 years.
  • Wash your hands.
    • Always wash your hands immediately after touching, feeding, or caring for pet rodents or cleaning their habitats.
  • Play safely.
    • Do not kiss, nuzzle, or hold pet rodents close to your face. This can startle your pet and increase the chance it will bite you. Bites from pet rodents can spread germs and possibly make you sick.
  • Never eat, drink, or smoke while playing with or caring for your pet rodent.
    • Keep pet rodents, food and water bowls, and other supplies out of the kitchen or other areas where food is prepared, served, or consumed.
  • Be aware that pet rodents can carry germs that can contaminate surfaces in areas where they live and roam.
    • You don’t have to touch pet rodents to get sick from their germs.
    • Make sure rodent enclosures are properly secured and safe so your pet doesn’t get hurt or contaminate surfaces.
  • Clean and disinfect rodent habitats, food and water bowls, and other supplies outside your home when possible.
    • If you clean rodent supplies indoors, use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately after.
    • Never clean rodent habitats or their supplies in the kitchen sink, other food preparation areas, or the bathroom sink.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about your pet rodent’s health.
    • Your veterinarian can play a key role in helping you and your pets stay healthy.
  • Tell your healthcare provider that you have been around pet rodents, whether at home or away from the home, especially if you are sick or have been bitten or scratched.
    • Some germs carried by pet rodents can cause serious and life-threatening illness in people.

Options for Unwanted Guinea Pigs

  • Releasing unwanted pet rodents into the wild is not recommended. Many pet retailers, pet stores, local animal shelters, zoos, or animal rescues accept unwanted pets. Talk to your veterinarian about other options.
  • Pet stores and others who sell or display pet rodents should provide health information to owners and potential purchasers of pet rodents near the animal display and not at the cash register.
    • This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from pet rodents and instructions for cleaning the animal habitat properly.
    • Posters containing this information are available in English and Spanish.
  • More information on displaying animals in public settings can be found in the 2017 Compendium of Measures to Prevent Diseases Associated with Animals in Public SettingsExternal.

Advice to Veterinarians

  • Veterinarians should educate pet rodent owners about the risks of acquiring salmonellosis from these animals and how to safely clean the animal habitat.

Advice to Health Care Providers

  • Health care providers should ask patients and patient caregivers about pet and animal ownership. They should provide education about the risks of acquiring salmonellosis from pet rodents.
  • Health care providers should teach patients and patient caregivers about proper hand washing practices.
Photo of a guinea pig being pet by a person's hand.
Tips for Pet Guinea Pig Owners