The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has posted a health alert on its website reminding citizens to practise good hygiene after handling their snakes.
Actually, it’s not as irrelevant as it may sound. The alert has a link to a notice from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which has been tracking an outbreak of snake-related Salmonella infections across the country.
Specifically, the June 11 PHAC public health notice details how it is investigating 22 occurences of illness caused by Salmonella typhimurium “with the same genetic fingerprint”. This obliges the agency, in cooperation with its provincial counterparts, to try to determine if there can be a common source, which comes in handy, obviously, if the outbreak is food poisoning–related.
Both captive snakes and the rodents often used to feed them (usually mice, dead or alive) carry Salmonella. People who come into contact with either of them (or who touch containers, instruments, cages, etcetera, that house them or their food) should, basically, follow the same hygiene protocols that they would if they came into contact with raw chicken: wash thoroughly with soap and warm water, and don’t touch anyone or anything else before doing so.
Salmonella is a genus of bacteria whose species can cause illness in humans. It is related to the genus Escherichia, which harbours the well-known pathogen E.coli.
With reference to the alert, the 22 cases (one in B.C., 18 in Ontario, and three in Quebec) resulted in three hospitalizations, with recovery, and no deaths. Salmonellosis, typically, does not present much of a danger to healthy individuals, although it can be a concern with the elderly, pregnant women, children under five, and those with compromised immune systems.
So what is it with Ontario reporting more than 80 percent of the cases? Have persecuted Pentecostal snake handlers fled there from the Appalachians? Can you get salmonellosis from shaking hands with Rob Ford?