A multi-state Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak associated with frozen vacuum-packed rodents used to feed snakes

Zoonoses Public Health. 2008 Oct;55(8-10):481-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2008.01118.x.


From December 2005 through January 2006, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) identified four human clinical isolates of Salmonella Typhimurium that were indistinguishable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). During routine interviews, three of the cases reported attending the same junior high school and two handled snakes in the science classroom. MDH collected environmental samples from the school's science classroom for Salmonella culturing; these included environmental samples and frozen vacuum-packed mice purchased over the internet to feed the classroom snakes. Through PulseNet, a national molecular subtyping surveillance network for enteric bacteria, 21 human S. Typhimurium isolates with indistinguishable PFGE patterns were identified in the United States since December 2005. Each state determined whether these human cases had recent exposure to snakes fed vacuum-packed rodents. Texas state officials conducted tracebacks of the vacuum-packed mice and collected samples at the breeding facility. Nineteen of 21 cases were interviewed, and seven reported contact with frozen vacuum-packed rodents from the same internet-based supplier in Texas. In Minnesota, the outbreak PFGE subtype of S. Typhimurium was isolated from the snakes, frozen feed rodents, and the classroom environment. Three human cases were identified in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. The outbreak PFGE subtype of S. Typhimurium was isolated from the Pennsylvania case's frozen rodents and the Michigan case's pet snake. The outbreak PFGE subtype of S. Typhimurium was also isolated from the supplier's rodent facility. This was a S. Typhimurium outbreak associated with frozen rodents. Human transmission likely occurred through direct contact with snakes and contaminated environmental surfaces. This report represents the second recent multi-state salmonellosis outbreak associated with commercially distributed rodents. Stronger oversight of the commercial rodent industry is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animal Feed / microbiology*
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Commerce
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Disease Reservoirs / microbiology
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary
  • Female
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Food Packaging
  • Frozen Foods / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rodentia / microbiology*
  • Salmonella Infections / transmission*
  • Salmonella Infections, Animal / transmission
  • Salmonella typhimurium / isolation & purification*
  • Snakes / microbiology*
  • Vacuum
  • Young Adult
  • Zoonoses*