Your Pet's Food Dish Could Serve Up Salmonella – Yahoo! News

Your Pet's Food Dish Could Serve Up Salmonella – Yahoo! News

MONDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) — Dry pet food may be a little-known
source of Salmonella bacterial infection among humans, and young children
seem to be especially at risk, a new study finds.

outbreak that sickened 79 American patients — about half of them 2 years

“It's a tough thing because pets are not symptomatic like we are and
can shed this [bacterium] for up to 10 to 12 weeks” in their feces, said
Dr. Peter Richel, chief of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in
Mt. Kisco, N.Y., who is familiar with the findings. “It is a little
disconcerting to hear that otherwise benign-appearing pet food can pose
any risk at all.”

The issue has made headlines in recent days with several varieties of
Iams and Eukanuba dog and cat food recalled last week due to potential
Salmonella contamination. The manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, says no
cases of human Salmonella have yet been linked to these products.

The proportion of people who fell ill from contaminated pet food in the
21-state outbreak covered by the new study was small, but the fact that
the food-borne illness affected young children so drastically is
troubling, experts said.

Salmonella, a food-borne illness, can be serious in infants and the
elderly.

Reporting in the September issue of Pediatrics, researchers led
by Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention say that contact with pets and contact with the pet's
environment — their bed and where they eat and sleep, for example — can
result in human infections.

Feeding pets in the kitchen quadrupled the risk of illness, although
“the reasons for that are a little unclear,” said Dr. Timothy Pfanner,
assistant professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science
Center College of Medicine and a gastroenterologist with Scott & White
Healthcare in Temple, Texas.

“It looks like the bacteria multiply either on the floor of the
kitchen, or I suspect people don't clean their dog bowls,” said Pfanner,
who was not involved in the study.

On the other hand, the researchers found that children who actually put
pet food into their mouth seemed to have no added risk.

The Pennsylvania plant where the contaminated pet food was manufactured
was eventually closed, the researchers note. However, they add that since
2006, at least 135 pet products, including pet supplements and pigs' ears,
have been recalled as a result of Salmonella contamination.

This new study, “re-emphasizes the importance of washing your hands
whenever you deal with anything from a pet, including petting him,
touching his mouth or cleaning up after him, especially for children whose
immune systems are very weak in comparison to adults,” said Dr. Philip
Tierno, clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York
University Langone Medical Center in New York City and author of The
Secret Life of Germs
.

“Hand washing is the single most important thing anyone can do to
protect their health, and that's within everyone's purview if you teach
them,” Tierno said. “You can do that and not be afraid.”

Another precaution is to have well-packaged, well-stored pet food,
keeping it out of the reach of infants and toddlers, said Richel.

“This is a small section of total cases of Salmonella, but it's
important because so many of our kids are on the floor all the time,” said
Pfanner.

More information

The U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention
has more on Salmonella

.

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