A recent illness outbreak in Minnesota that’s been traced to hamsters is prompting a health warning to Iowans. Doctor Paul Fey, a public health pathologist in Omaha/Council Bluffs, says a number of people in Minnesota contracted salmonella from their tiny, furry pets. Fey says small rodents can be a source of infection for salmonella, and so can reptiles.
Eight hamsters purchased from a pet distributor in Minnesota spread the illness to their new owners. Fey says the odds are pretty small that you’ll catch a disease from a hamster, but it happens more often than you’d think. He says three-to-five percent of all salmonella cases in the U.S. can be traced back to pets, specifically to household rodents and lizards.
A majority of the rest of the cases come from eating contaminated eggs or undercooked poultry. He says the illness can be severe. He says it may just be diarrhea but it can become more serious in very old or very young people who may end up with a blood infection. Fey says there’s an easy preventative measure — wash your hands after coming in contact with the creatures.