This is certianly not your everyday average Kermit The Frog. Since 2009, household salmonella stemming from pet frogs has been under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Today, an update has been released and stores continue to sell the little critters, putting their keepers at risk of serious health implications.

Back in 2009 in fact, samples taken from aquariums containing aquatic frogs in four homes of ill persons yielded the outbreak strain. Environmental samples from two African dwarf frog distributors who obtain their frogs from wholesaler Blue Lobster Farms yielded the outbreak strain.

In March 2011, testing conducted by the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center Laboratory of a water sample collected from an aquarium containing African dwarf frogs in the household of a sick infant also identified the outbreak strain.

This nationwide outbreak is ongoing. As of July 18, 2011, a total of 241 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 42 states since April 1, 2009. These infections are associated with African dwarf frogs, a type of water frog, and water from their habitats (e.g., tanks or aquariums).

Because of the evidence of an ongoing problem, local health department officials visited Blue Lobster Farms again in late March 2011 and collected additional environmental samples. These samples were tested in CDC laboratories and most yielded isolates matching the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. Additional environmental samples obtained from Blue Lobster Farms were tested by the California Department of Public Health Microbial Diseases Laboratory Branch; most samples yielded isolates matching the outbreak strain.

In April 2011, testing conducted by the Michigan Department of Community Health from a swab of an African dwarf frog and a water sample and rocks collected from the frog’s aquarium, all from the household of a sick child, clearly re-identified the outbreak strain.

Today, a California company has resumed selling a kind of pet frog that caused salmonella illnesses in more than 240 people, most of them children. And federal health officials are not happy.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials on Wednesday warned consumers that Blue Lobster Farms in June had resumed shipping African dwarf frogs from its Madera County, California, breeding facility. They say the frogs may still pose a serious health risk.

The company voluntarily stopped shipping the frogs in April, after an investigation fingered them as the source of a salmonella outbreak that sickened people nationwide over two years. No one died, but many illnesses were in children under 5 years old and some hospitalized.

Water frogs are not an appropriate pet for children under 5 years old, and if possible, should not be present in homes with children of this young age. Also, keep water frogs out of childcare centers, hospitals and nursing homes.

It is important to keep any habitat with water frogs out a child’s bedroom, especially children under 5 years old. Handle all surfaces that have come in contact with water frogs as if they are contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, because there is a good possibility that they are.

If you have a water frog, watch for symptoms of Salmonella infection, such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Call your health care provider if you or a family member develops these symptoms.

Pet stores and others who sell or display water frogs are advised that the effectiveness of interventions used to resolve the Salmonella contamination problems at Blue Lobster Farms are unknown at this time.

Blue Lobster Farms currently does not sell African dwarf frogs directly to the public. Consumers may want to know the source of African dwarf frogs so they can choose to avoid purchasing from retailers who buy frogs from Blue Lobster Farms until it is known that these interventions have been successfully implemented. Pet stores should check with their distributors to determine if they have received African dwarf frogs from Blue Lobster Farms.

Source: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Written by Sy Kraft