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17. Conclusions

When you sit down and try to bring it all together, you reach several conclusions.
  1. There is clear evidence that pocket pets can serve as vehicles for transmission of Salmonella.

  2. Antimicrobial use in the pocket pet industry is common.  Antibiotic usage contributes to the selective pressure for the development and spread of multi-drug resistant organisms.  Close contact between pocket pets and people – especially children that are generally more susceptible to enteric diseases and less likely to wash their hands – increases the risk that pocket pets will transmit their infections to people.  Subsequent to this outbreak investigation, pocket pets must be considered as a potential source for multi-drug resistant Salmonella infections.

  3. Producers/breeders of pocket pets should use diagnostic testing for non-specific enteritis, rather than using antibiotics just in case bacterial agents may be involved. 

  4. Good husbandry and sanitation practices could help prevent transmission and eliminate the need for prophylactic antimicrobial treatment within the pet rodent industry.

  5. The prophylactic use of antimicrobials most likely contributed to multi-drug resistant Salmonella spread among the pet rodent breeding populations.  Antimicrobials may prolong and mask the clinical signs of Salmonella infections, and cause extended shedding of a higher number of organisms. This could result in an increased dissemination of the infection through a facility.
  6. Salmonella is a common enteric pathogen that is easily spread among most animals species, including humans, rodents, primates, birds, reptiles, and ruminants.  It can readily develop resistance, and therefore inappropriate and unnecessary use of antimicrobials in raising animals is discouraged.

 

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Keys to preventing Salmonella transmission:

The public should be aware that rodents could carry organisms potentially harmful to humans and that rodent feces are potentially infectious.

  • Wash hands after handling an animal, its cage or its bedding.
  • Animals should not be allowed into any area where food is prepared.
  • Do not eat while touching or playing with your pets.
  • Do not touch your pets and then touch you fingers to your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Children should always be supervised for the above sanitary practices when handling their pets. Young children who are unable to reliably wash their hands should avoid contact with rodent feces.