Pet Reptiles May Pose
Health Hazard - Wash
Your Hands

NEW YORK - Children who keep snakes, lizards and turtles as pets are at risk of infections that can cause serious illness, and even death, scientists warn.
Each year, pet reptiles and amphibians are responsible for an estimated 93,000 cases of infection with Salmonella bacteria, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, report.
The government experts said that many families and pet store owners are unaware of these risks, and few states have enacted laws requiring individuals who purchase reptiles to be educated about Salmonella.
"Persons become infected by ingesting Salmonella after handling a reptile or objects contaminated by a reptile and then failing to wash their hands properly," CDC officials explain in the November 12th issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. "Either direct or indirect contact with infected reptiles and their environment can cause human illness."
The report describes what happened to five children who caught Salmonella infection from their pet reptiles.
One of the children, a 3-week-old infant boy, twice became infected by the same pet iguana. He required 10 days in the hospital for the first infection and emergency room treatment for the second.
Another infant, a 5-month-old boy, died suddenly in his home despite being apparently healthy. Although he had no direct contact with an iguana living in the house, the boy and the pet were found to be infected with the same strain of Salmonella.
Two brothers, 3 and 6 years old, caught Salmonella from two pet corn snakes that lived in their bedroom. In another case, an 8-year-old boy became infected just 3 days after his parents bought two pet iguanas from a local pet store. When the parents returned the iguanas, the store owner said that he was unaware of the risk of infection from the pets.
All of the children became seriously ill, with symptoms such as vomiting, fever, and bloody diarrhea.
Children and individuals with poorly functioning immune systems are most at risk of catching Salmonella infections from reptiles, and they are also most at risk of developing serious complications of these infections, the CDC experts say. They recommend that states enact laws requiring pet owners to be educated about the risk of infection from reptiles and on how to handle the pets safely.
For people who already keep reptiles as pets, they have this advice:
" Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a reptile or reptile cage.
" Do not allow reptiles in the kitchen or other food preparation areas.
" Do not wash reptiles, their cages or their dishes in the kitchen sink. If the bathtub is used for that purpose, clean and disinfect it thoroughly with bleach.
" Do not let reptiles roam about the home.
" If you are expecting a new child, remove the reptile from the home before the infant arrives.
" Keep reptiles away from children younger than 5 years of age and individuals with poorly functioning immune systems.


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