Health officials are investigating a series of Salmonella outbreaks that seem to be tied to pet guinea pigs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the investigation began after its national laboratory network identified a cluster of three Salmonella Enteritidis infections that were closely related genetically. The data was able to identify six other closely-related illnesses dating back to July 17, 2015.
A continuing investigation by the CDC, several states and the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found evidence that contact with pet guinea pigs is the likely source of the salmonella outbreak.
So far, nine people were infected with the outbreak strain. One of the infected people was hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. The infections were found in eight states, including Indiana.
Most people infected with salmonella experience symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. The illness lasts about four to seven days.
Most people recover without treatment, but in some cases, diarrhea can be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized. In rare cases, salmonella can cause death unless a patient receives prompt treatment with antibiotics.
Children younger than 5, adults older than 65 and people with weakened immune systems should take extra precautions.
The CDC said this outbreak is a reminder that pet rodents such as guinea pigs can carry Salmonella bacteria even when they look healthy and clean, regardless of where they are purchased or adopted. The CDC offered the following tips for pets and health:
Options for Unwanted Guinea Pigs