Everywhere we look we are beset by the scourge of Salmonella. It turns up in bird feeders (Alley et al 2002), home aquariums (Levings et al 2006), and most recently in playground sand (Staff et al 2012). While Salmonella infections have been commonly associated with reptiles all animals should be considered carriers of Salmonella. I recall a case of diarrhoea in a kangaroo joey that was being hand raised. The carer, concerned for his welfare, took him to bed with her each night to keep him warm. Oddly enough the carer then developed the same diarrhoea as the kangaroo.
The US reports 40,000 human cases of salmonellosis each year (http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/salmonellosis/#how_common). Who knows how many unknown cases of salmonellosis there are? After all how many times have you submitted your faeces for bacterial culture when you had diarrhoea?
The thing is that most of these cases can be easily prevented. Salmonella really doesn’t like soap. With a bit of common sense (stop sleeping with your patients) and more attention to personal hygiene most of us should remain diarrhoea free. All it requires is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (that’s equivalent to singing the Happy Birthday song twice) each time you handle an animal, clean the cat box, fish tank, etc and certainly before eating, preparing food or smoking. Actually don’t worry about washing before smoking. If, in this day and age, you’re still stupid enough to be smoking you probably deserve everything you get. Consult http://www.cdc.gov/features/handwashing/ for those who are hand washing challenged.
Dr. F. Bunny
Alley, M.R., J.H. Connolly, S.G. Fenwick, G.F. Mackereth, M.J. Leyland, L.E. Rogers, M. Haycock, C. Nicol, and C.E. Reed. 2002. An epidemic of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella Typhimurium DT160 in wild birds and humans in New Zealand. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 50:170-176.
Levings, R.S., D. Lightfoot, R.M. Hall, and S.P. Djordjevic. 2006. Aquariums as reservoirs for multidrug-resistant Salmonella paratyphi B. Emerging Infectious Diseases 12:507-510.
Staff, M., J. Musto, G. Hogg, M. Janssen, and K. Rose. 2012. Salmonellosis outbreak traced to playground sand, Australia, 2007-2009. Emerging Infectious Diseases 18:1159-1161.