At least two people in Washington state have developed salmonella infections tied to pet crested gecko lizards since January, federal officials say. It’s part of a lizard-related outbreak that has sickened 20 in 16 states.

Share story

Federal health officials are warning about an outbreak of salmonella infections tied to pet crested gecko lizards in 16 states, including Washington.

At least 20 people have been sickened, including two in Washington, with a strain of Salmonella Muenchen since Jan. 1, 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Three of the ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The CDC posted notice of the outbreak Thursday, saying the agency is collaborating with public health, veterinary and agricultural officials in several states. They’ve used genetic fingerprinting of the salmonella strain to detect the infections.

Officials are warning pet owners to be careful with the popular lizards, which come in a variety of colors and are sold at pet stores. Similar salmonella outbreaks have been linked to other reptiles, such as bearded dragon lizards.

Gecko-related salmonella infections with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 16 states: Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Single infections have been reported in most of the states. Two infections each have been reported in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

When investigators talked to people sick with the same salmonella strain, more than 90 percent said they’d had contact with reptiles and all of those people reported contact with crested geckos.

The infections can be treated with antibiotics, the CDC reported.

The CDC isn’t recommending that pet owners discard their geckos. Rather, they’re reminding pet owners to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with the lizards and any objects where they live and roam.

If pet owners want to give up the lizards, they should contact a pet store or reptile rescue for a safe way to relinquish the animals. Pet geckos shouldn’t be let loose in the environment, the agency cautioned.