Previous Outbreak Investigation Updates

Final Update

Posted November 24, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET

This outbreak investigation is over. However, people can still get a Salmonella infection from pet bearded dragons. Always take steps to stay healthy around pet bearded dragons.

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October 1, 2020

CDC and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Muenster infections linked to bearded dragons.

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using a standardized laboratory and data analysis method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these sequences that are used to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives investigators detailed information about the bacteria causing illness. In this investigation, WGS showed that bacteria isolated from ill people were closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

As of September 25, 2020, a total of 13 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Muenster have been reported from eight states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Map of Reported Cases page.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from February 23, 2020, to August 22, 2020. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 72 years, with a median age of 15. Five ill people are children under 5 years of age. Fifty-eight percent of ill people are female. Of 11 ill people with information available, 7 were reported to have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

WGS analysis of 10 bacterial isolates from ill people did not predict any antibiotic resistance. Standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) of three isolates also showed no resistance.

Investigation of the Outbreak

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence shows that contact with pet bearded dragons is the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, people answered questions about animal contact in the week before they became ill. Of the 13 people interviewed, 10 (77%) reported contact with bearded dragons before becoming ill. Ill people reported buying bearded dragons from various pet stores in multiple states. A common supplier has not been identified.

The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from a bearded dragon and its environment from the home of an ill person in Virginia.

Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella germs that can make people sick even if they look healthy and clean. Bearded dragon owners should always follow steps to stay healthy around their pet.

This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information becomes available.