Household Hamsters: Potential Vectors

According to the CDC, there is a risk of pet hamsters harboring some
darn serious pathogens.  

style="border: 0px solid ; width: 460px; height: 345px;"
alt="CC license: share alike, attribution"
title="by Yukari*, some rights reserved."

photo credit: href="">Yukari.

Hamsters, technically Class: Mammalia; Order: Rodentia; Suborder:
Myomorpha; Superfamily: Muroidea; Family: Cricetidae; Subfamily:
Cricetinae, are cute little pets that people routinely get for their
kids.  My sisters used to have some.

But there is a potential for transmission of salmonella, according to a
recent NEJM article, summarized on href="">Medpage

ATLANTA, Jan. 3 -- Those
cute little hamsters can carry nasty salmonella pathogens. A rodent is
a rodent.

That's the conclusion of an investigation by researchers from the CDC
here, after eight pet hamsters were found in 2004 by Minnesota health
department workers to have died from the same subtype of Salmonella
enterica serotype Typhimurium.

A review of human cases that occurred from December 2003 to September
2004 identified 28 patients with the same rare subtype, according to
Stephen Swanson, M.D., of the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service

The researchers reported two specific human cases that prompted the
investigation -- one in South Carolina and one on Minnesota.

In the first case, a four-year-old boy was given a pet hamster from a
pet store, which died two days later. A week after the hamster's death,
the boy was taken to hospital with fever, watery diarrhea, and
abdominal cramping.

A stool culture yielded the same rare subtype of style="font-style: italic;">S. enterica
Typhimurium, the researchers said.

In the second case, a five-year-old boy had diarrhea for 14 days,
abdominal cramps, vomiting, and fever. Four days before the boy fell
ill, his family had bought a mouse from a pet store, which immediately
became lethargic and developed diarrhea.

Despite the animal's illness, "the boy frequently handled and kissed
it," Dr. Swanson and colleagues reported.

Cultures from the boy and the animal yielded the same rare salmonella

They go on to report about another very serious case, involving a
pregnant woman.  She ended up having serious perinatal
complications, as did the infant.  

The only advice is to remind people to wash their hands frequently,
certainly after handling rodents.  But the report suggests
that pregnant women may want to be especially careful.  It
also suggests that perhaps people should limit contact with new rodent
pets for a couple of weeks after obtaining it.  Might be hard
to do, with eager kids around.


More like this

An ongoing outbreak of Salmonella associated with turtles has now sickened more than 100 and caused a quarter of that number to be hospitalized: Cases have been reported in 33 states, but mostly in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Most of the patients have been children. No one has…
Salmonella is lots of fun. Human infection usually involves fever, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Salmonella infections are reasonably common, especially food-borne outbreaks. It's unknown exactly how many people in the U.S. suffer from salmonellosis each year since…
So we have more Salmonella contamination out and about. This one is in dry pet food. But it wasn't the pets that were getting the Salmonella: Salmonella-contaminated dry pet food sickened at least 79 people, including many young children, and could still be dangerous, the U.S. Centers for Disease…
Salmonella species are frequent human pathogens. An incredibly diverse genus, different types of Salmonella infect an enormous variety of species, from mammals to fish to invertebrates. They are typically acquired via ingestion of contaminated food or water, and the bacteria then seed the…

This must be Hamsters and Pregnant Women Don't Mix Week; I did a write-up on lymphocytic choriomeningitis for work yesterday. Usually found in house mice, it was found mice can infect hamsters, or at least golden hamsters. The mother usually has mild or no symptoms but the fetus can wind up with mental retardation, hydrocephalus, or death.

So hamsters are out. Mice are out. Guinea pigs are out (LCMV too). Cats are out (toxoplasmosis). It just goes to show you dogs make the best pets.

how about house pekin ducks

We had a duck for a while when I wa a small child, but we never let it into the house.

That was long before bird flu.

Agreed, dogs make the best pets.

Then why do I have three cats and no dogs?

Oh, but hamsters make great pets, their sooooo sweet. I've had 4 so far and three have lived for over 2 years. The other is now 1 and a bit but still healthy.

well i think think that hamsters do make a good pets and dogs r good but seem to need more attnetion than hamsters do.Most people say hamsters stink...well they do if you do not take care of them correctly.Think about this to people that own dogs do ur dogs stink? I have 2 dogs and they roll in dead things and yeah they r good for like company but when you get a puppy you HAVE to spend all the time with it and if you dont you r not going to have a good dog.
And i wan tto get a hamster,and i will be CAREFUL for god sake,but thanks for warning me !