Did you know that reptiles and amphibians such as turtles, lizards and frogs can carry a bacterium called Salmonella? If there are young children in your home, reptiles and amphibians may not be the safest pets for your family.
Reptiles and amphibians are popular pets in many families. Turtles, frogs, iguanas, snakes, geckos, horned toads, salamanders, and chameleons are colorful, silent, and are often adopted as pets. Reptiles and amphibians are usually carriers of microbes called Salmonella that can cause serious illness in people.
Although many people think that salmonellosis is caused only by contaminated food, these microbes can also be contracted by handling animals such as reptiles or amphibians. Salmonellosis can also be caused by contact with the environment of reptiles or amphibians, such as the water in the containers or fish tanks where they live.
Given the importance of the subject from the point of view of Public Health, the professors of the Faculty of Veterinary CEU, Clara Marín, Sara Gonzalez and Santiago Vega, will develop “The epidemiological characterization of Galapagos, within the European project Life09, in different wetlands of the Comunitat Valenciana”.
Salmonella can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps in sick people. Young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to become seriously ill from this infection.
Young children have a higher risk of salmonellosis because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put their fingers and objects in their mouths. For this reason, families with children younger than 5 years of age should not have reptiles or amphibians as pets.
How do people get salmonellosis from reptiles and amphibians?
Reptiles and amphibians can have Salmonella microbes in their bodies even when they look healthy and clean. Microbes can also be in cages, fish tanks, terrariums, and the water in which reptiles and amphibians live or swim and in other containers where they live.
Everything that reptiles and amphibians touch should be considered as possibly contaminated with Salmonella. When you touch reptiles and amphibians, germs can remain on your hands or clothing.
It is important to wash your hands immediately after touching animals or anything in the area where they live or move, including water in containers or fish tanks because germs on your hands can easily spread to other people or things.
How can I reduce my risk of getting salmonellosis from reptiles or amphibians?
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching reptiles or amphibians or anything in the area where they live or walk. Use hand sanitizers if soap and water are not available at that time.
- Adults should always make sure young children wash their hands well.
- Do not allow children younger than 5 years of age to handle or touch reptiles or amphibians or anything around them in the area where they live or live as containers or fish tanks.
- Do not bring reptiles and amphibians into homes with children under age 5 or people with weakened immune systems.
- Reptiles and amphibians should not be kept as pets in kindergartens, daycare centers, or other facilities with children younger than 5 years of age.
- Do not touch your mouth after touching reptiles or amphibians and do not eat or drink near these animals.
- Do not let reptiles or amphibians walk around the house freely or in areas where food or beverages are prepared, served, or stored, such as the kitchen, pantry, or patios.
- Living areas and objects inside should be carefully cleaned outside the home. Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and do not throw water in the kitchen sink where you prepare food or obtain drinking water.
- Do not wash these animals or their containers where they live in the kitchen. If you wash them in the tub, clean them thoroughly after use. Use bleach to disinfect bathtubs or places you use to clean amphibian or reptile containers.
- Wash any clothing that the reptile or amphibian has touched.
- Use soap or a disinfectant to thoroughly wash all surfaces that have come in contact with reptiles or amphibians.
What are the signs and symptoms and types of treatment for salmonellosis?
You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of salmonellosis by visiting the Salmonellosis Web site.
Are there any restrictions imposed on the possession of amphibians or reptiles?
Since 1975, it has been illegal in the United States to sell or distribute turtles with shells less than 10 centimeters in length. This size was chosen precisely because small children are more likely to think of small turtles as toys and put them in their mouths. This ban on the sale of small turtles is likely to remain the most effective public health measure to prevent salmonellosis associated with turtles.
Despite this ban, these turtles are still found in pet shops, stalls and on the Internet. In addition, children hunt wild turtles and lizards and bring them home for pets. Whether purchased in the store or trapped in the garden, a turtle may carry Salmonella and may not be the best pet choice for its family, especially if there are small children or people with weakened immune systems in the home.