The CDC reported that it and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are investigating a recent, multi-state salmonella outbreak after several recent cases were linked to pet guinea pigs. Nine people were infected across eight states. The link was uncovered after four out of seven people who caught salmonella and were interviewed said that they recently came into contact with a guinea pig.
Using whole genome sequencing, a process used to analyze and compare germs that make people sick, scientists were able to link the cases together and determine that the bacteria had come from the guinea pigs.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can become life-threatening if left untreated. After contracting the infection, people experience moderate to severe gastrointestinal discomfort. Many people recover without hospitalization, but in some cases, the infection travels outside the intestines. These cases can prove deadly unless promptly treated with antibiotics. It’s estimated that around 23,000 people each year are hospitalized in the U.S. for salmonella. Babies and the elderly are especially susceptible to more dangerous salmonella infections if infected.
The CDC used the incident to remind guinea pig owners to take extra care while handling their pets. Anyone who has recently been in contact with a rodent is advised to let their healthcare provider know. Additionally, you don’t have to come in direct contact with a rodent to become infected. Surfaces they may have walked on can become contaminated and should be disinfected along with any items used to clean your guinea pig’s enclosure or food containers. Always wash your hands after handling a rodent. Even if a guineas pig appears to be healthy and well-groomed, it can carry harmful bacteria. The CDC doesn’t recommend rodents as pets for children under five, pregnant women, or for the elderly because of their increased susceptibility to the bacteria.