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Can Hamsters Kill?

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A recent death and subsequent lawsuit has Moms worried.


When we heard that a woman was suing PetSmart due to an infected hamster that, in a roundabout way, killed her husband (he died after receiving organs from a woman who was infected by the hamster), we got a little freaked. After all, our kids only beg for a hamster--what?--20 times a day.

We called friend of Mom•Logic and pediatrician Dr. Gwenn for the truth. Are hamsters safe for our kids?

"I wish I had good news on this one. LCMV, or lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, is one of the rare rodent infections that can get passed to humans. But it is typically a virus found in live mice. The way pets such as hamsters get LCMV is to get exposed--typically at the breeding facility, according to the CDC.

"We had guinea pigs for five years, and I did worry about this issue. What I did was find a pet store that had a very, very rigorous health screening program complete with daily vet visits. I also had our new piggies examined by a local small animal vet soon after they came home. And, we didn't let the kids handle them much early on until we were sure we had healthy pigs. I'd advise the same for hamsters.

"So, what do I advise parents? Do research and ask a great deal of questions. Don't necessarily go to the biggest chain or the most national. Ask about where the pets come from and how they are screened for health issues. The CDC has great tips to minimize exposure to kids on their site, as well."

Would you allow your kid to get a pet hamster?

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72 comments so far | Post a comment now
Selina April 14, 2008, 5:21 PM

Ewww. Glad I read this article before my kids got a hamster from their friend.

April April 14, 2008, 5:27 PM

That is so nasty. I can’t believe they can be deadly! Yet another reason NOT to get one.

Katya April 14, 2008, 10:42 PM

Oh don’t be so paranoid people. I have 4 hamsters, I had another one once before (poor thing died of an injury) and as long as you wash your hands after handling you’ll be fine.

Jeanne April 30, 2008, 8:58 PM

All I can say is forewarned is fore-armed.It may not always be the hamsters fault some kids can be naturally rough and can cause a bite unnecessarily.

Emma Jenkinson May 4, 2008, 8:19 AM

I got a hamster(Jasper) 3 days ago for my 11th birthday and it hasnt bit me yet. The man at the pet shop said if you hold the hamster with a bit of food on your hand it you automatically bite you. Hamsters are really nice family pets but remember always wash your hands before and after you hold it.

nowhatehamsters July 18, 2008, 1:45 PM

i was gonna get a hamster for my 11 birthday but i was doing some research and stumbbled upon this page and read huhuh gives me shivers i love hammies but i dot love them to death if u no wat i mean lol i will never love a hamster again

brieana July 20, 2008, 7:56 PM

i was gonna get a hamster for my 11 birthday but i was doing some research and stumbbled upon this page and read huhuh gives me shivers i love hammies but i dot love them to death if u no wat i mean lol i will never love a hamster again

brieanna September 4, 2008, 3:56 PM

if u have a suppresed imune system dont get a hamster

brieanna September 7, 2008, 1:15 PM

do rabbits have lcmv or zoonoses dieseases please tell me

Anonymous October 10, 2008, 9:14 AM

i don’t really think a hamster can kill you come on I had a hamster he never did anything.

kaitlyne January 10, 2009, 10:52 AM

Oh Whatever I have a hamster/ panda hamster and he barely does anything except sleeps, but i would believe you if the thing was vicious!

Lacho lacho lacho January 31, 2009, 6:23 PM

I had 2 hamsters but one killed the other one. Poor hamster ( both are Russian )

larry joe April 9, 2009, 5:51 PM

first of all emma jenkinson the hamster WONT bite you if you put food in your hand duh and hamsters do not kill people

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