The Corpus Callosum

According to the CDC, there is a risk of pet hamsters harboring some
darn serious pathogens.  

CC license: share alike, attribution

photo credit: Yukari.

Hamsters, technically Class: Mammalia; Order: Rodentia; Suborder:
Myomorpha; Superfamily: Muroidea; Family: Cricetidae; Subfamily:
Cricetinae, are cute little pets that people routinely get for their
kids.  My sisters used to have some.

But there is a potential for transmission of salmonella, according to a
recent NEJM article, summarized on Medpage

ATLANTA, Jan. 3 — Those
cute little hamsters can carry nasty salmonella pathogens. A rodent is
a rodent.

That’s the conclusion of an investigation by researchers from the CDC
here, after eight pet hamsters were found in 2004 by Minnesota health
department workers to have died from the same subtype of Salmonella
enterica serotype Typhimurium.

A review of human cases that occurred from December 2003 to September
2004 identified 28 patients with the same rare subtype, according to
Stephen Swanson, M.D., of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service

The researchers reported two specific human cases that prompted the
investigation — one in South Carolina and one on Minnesota.

In the first case, a four-year-old boy was given a pet hamster from a
pet store, which died two days later. A week after the hamster’s death,
the boy was taken to hospital with fever, watery diarrhea, and
abdominal cramping.

A stool culture yielded the same rare subtype of S. enterica
Typhimurium, the researchers said.

In the second case, a five-year-old boy had diarrhea for 14 days,
abdominal cramps, vomiting, and fever. Four days before the boy fell
ill, his family had bought a mouse from a pet store, which immediately
became lethargic and developed diarrhea.

Despite the animal’s illness, “the boy frequently handled and kissed
it,” Dr. Swanson and colleagues reported.

Cultures from the boy and the animal yielded the same rare salmonella

They go on to report about another very serious case, involving a
pregnant woman.  She ended up having serious perinatal
complications, as did the infant.  

The only advice is to remind people to wash their hands frequently,
certainly after handling rodents.  But the report suggests
that pregnant women may want to be especially careful.  It
also suggests that perhaps people should limit contact with new rodent
pets for a couple of weeks after obtaining it.  Might be hard
to do, with eager kids around.


  1. #1 Algerine
    January 3, 2007

    This must be Hamsters and Pregnant Women Don’t Mix Week; I did a write-up on lymphocytic choriomeningitis for work yesterday. Usually found in house mice, it was found mice can infect hamsters, or at least golden hamsters. The mother usually has mild or no symptoms but the fetus can wind up with mental retardation, hydrocephalus, or death.

    So hamsters are out. Mice are out. Guinea pigs are out (LCMV too). Cats are out (toxoplasmosis). It just goes to show you dogs make the best pets.

  2. #2 isela
    April 11, 2007

    how about house pekin ducks

  3. #3 Joseph j7uy5
    April 11, 2007

    We had a duck for a while when I wa a small child, but we never let it into the house.

    That was long before bird flu.

    Agreed, dogs make the best pets.

    Then why do I have three cats and no dogs?

  4. #4 Sevie
    October 8, 2007

    Oh, but hamsters make great pets, their sooooo sweet. I’ve had 4 so far and three have lived for over 2 years. The other is now 1 and a bit but still healthy.

  5. #5 sierra
    July 25, 2008

    i love hamsters so much!! their so cute!!

  6. #6 sinai
    November 13, 2008

    i love them too im thinking about getting one but i heard that they bite you alot

  7. #7 christen
    April 18, 2009

    well i think think that hamsters do make a good pets and dogs r good but seem to need more attnetion than hamsters do.Most people say hamsters stink…well they do if you do not take care of them correctly.Think about this to people that own dogs do ur dogs stink? I have 2 dogs and they roll in dead things and yeah they r good for like company but when you get a puppy you HAVE to spend all the time with it and if you dont you r not going to have a good dog.
    And i wan tto get a hamster,and i will be CAREFUL for god sake,but thanks for warning me !

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