Friday, May 23, 2014

A national outbreak of salmonella infections related to frozen mice used as reptile food has sickened four people in Ohio

4 people in Ohio sick with salmonella from frozen 'feeder rodents' bought at PetSmart: Food and drug recalls

A national outbreak of salmonella infections related to frozen mice used as reptile food has sickened four people in Ohio. The Arctic Mice brand feeder rodents were sold in PetSmart stores nationwide and were distributed by Reptile Industries, Inc. of Naples, Fla. (Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer)

By Brie Zeltner, The Plain Dealer
on May 21, 2014 at 2:56 PM, updated May 21, 2014 at 4:28 PM




CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Four people in Ohio and a total of 37 nationwide have fallen ill with salmonella infections connected to handling frozen 'feeder rodents' sold at PetSmart stores as reptile food, the Food and Drug Administration warned Wednesday.

The Arctic Mice brand frozen rodents were distributed nationwide to PetSmart stores by Reptile Industry Inc. The Naples, Florida-based company has declined a recall of all of the affected product, according to the FDA.

As of May 13, a total of 37 illnesses connected to the mice have been reported in 18 states since January, and five people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases were reported in the following states: Alabama (1), Arizona (2), California (7), Illinois (1), Kentucky (1), Maryland (1), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Missouri (2), Montana (3), New Jersey (3), New Mexico (1), North Carolina (1), Ohio (4), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (3), South Dakota (1), and Texas (1).

The four Ohio cases were reported in Hamilton, Lawrence, Lucas and Wood counties. Those who fell ill ranged in age from seven years old to 63, and no one was hospitalized, according to Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Melanie Amato. The first illness in the state was reported Feb. 13 and the most recent on April 11, she said.
A strain of bacteria called Salmonella Typhimurium was detected in one of the feeder mice in the home of someone who fell ill in Oregon, and testing conducted by the FDA identified the outbreak strain in two frozen feeder rodent samples collected during an investigation at the company's facility. Two thirds of the ill people interviewed reported contact with multiple types of reptiles, including snakes and lizards, and 15 reported exposure to frozen feeder rodents.

People infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, and the infection usually lasts 4 to 7 days and resolves on its own. In some people, the Salmonella infection (or salmonellosis) may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites and can be deadly unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections.

If you think you've been sickened by contact with the product, call your doctor. If you have any of the Arctic Mice frozen rodents, dispose of them by placing them in a sealed container in the trash so that animals and pets cannot reach them.

If you're handling rodents as reptile food, be sure to:
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling the rodents or anything they have come in contact with.
  • Disinfect surfaces that the rodents have touched. FDA recommends a bleach solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) water, or for a larger supply of solution, add ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) water.
  • Keep feeder rodents away from food prep areas, and never thaw them in the microwave.
  • Keep feeder rodents away from children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
For more tips on safe handling of feeder rodents, check here. You can also find more information about food safety from the FDA here, or by calling 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. eastern time.

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