"Consider cute but contaminated", is what Dr. Stephen Swanson, lead author of an article published in the Jan. 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine has to say.
According to health experts small cute pet rodents like mice, hamsters and rats can spread bacteria.
Most of the 1.4 million salmonella infections, which occur annually in the United States, come from food, but some come from contact with animals.
But the connection between "pocket pets" such as hamsters and human cases of salmonella was not revealed until an outbreak in August 2004.
A veterinarian for a pet distributor in Minnesota,US, notified the Minnesota Department of Health that two hamsters from a shipment of 780 had tested positive for salmonella and that the animals were dying in large numbers.
By that time, the pet retailer had already sold almost 250 infected hamsters.
This was followed with reports of certain kids being taken ill and their pets dying. Further investigations revealed the link with salmonella infected hamsters and the sick children.
The strain of salmonella involved was a rare one, and investigators were ultimately able to identify 28 matching isolates in humans. Of 22 patients (or their parents) who could be interviewed, 13) had had contact with rodents purchased from retail pet stores. Two individuals had become infected through contact with a primary patient
There is widespread abuse of antimicrobials within the [pet] industry," Swanson said. "Antimicrobial use in the industry is potentially contributing to the dissemination of multi-drug resistant types of salmonella."
Doctors advice caution while buying and keeping rodent pets and total refrain by people with weak immune systems as well as pregnant women.