Why the mystery about the frog breeder who has been selling Salmonella-tinted frogs to kids for two years? What is the possible rationale for not telling the public? Setting aside for a moment whether it is a good or bad idea to market in African Water Frogs, perhaps parents and pet shop owners would like to know where the poisoned frogs are coming from? Perhaps there are breeders whose frogs have not been linked to Salmonella illnesses?  I have to admit I am not quite sure who has jurisdiction over frog sales in the U.S. – perhaps no one?

According to the CDC, as of April 18, 2011, a total of 216 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 41 states since April 1, 2009. The number of ill person identified in each state is as follows: Alaska (5), Alabama (2), Arizona (10), California (17), Colorado (12), Connecticut (3), Florida (1), Georgia (4), Idaho (4), Illinois (8), Indiana (1), Kansas (2), Kentucky (4), Louisiana (2), Massachusetts (6), Maryland (5), Michigan (6), Minnesota (1), Missouri (5), Mississippi (1), Montana (2), North Carolina (1), Nebraska (2), New Hampshire (3), New Jersey (3), New Mexico (2), Nevada (3), New York (7), Ohio (7), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (14), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (4), Texas (4), Utah (18), Virginia (11), Vermont (1), Washington (22), Wisconsin (3), and West Virginia (1).

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Among the persons for whom information is available, illnesses began April 9, 2009. Infected individuals range in age from less than 1 year old to 67 years old. Seventy-one percent of patients are younger than 10 years old, and the median age is 5 years old. Fifty-one percent of patients are female. Among ill persons, 30% were hospitalized.

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

water-frog-400px.jpgIn late March 2011, local health department staff in California visited the frog breeder and collected environmental samples. These samples were tested in laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and at the California Department of Public Health Microbial Diseases Laboratory Branch, and most were positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium.

In 2009, samples taken from aquariums containing aquatic frogs in four homes of ill persons yielded isolates of Salmonella Typhimurium matching the outbreak strain. Environmental samples from two African dwarf frog distributors who obtain their frogs from the California breeder yielded the outbreak strain

CDC is warning parents that children under 5 years old are at high risk for serious Salmonella infections and should avoid contact with water frogs, their water, and their habitat (e.g., aquarium or fish tank). Others who are at high risk and who should avoid contact with water frogs, their water, and their habitat include pregnant women and people who have weak immune systems, such as cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplants.