Pet Reptiles Pose Salmonella Risk

Young children susceptible to infection, study says

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FRIDAY, Sept. 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Young children have a greater risk than older children of contracting salmonella from pet reptiles and of developing serious -- and potentially fatal -- complications from the infection.

That's the finding of a University of Michigan study published in the Sept. 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The study noted reptiles caught in the wild and bought at a pet store often carry salmonella bacteria, which can cause diarrhea.

The researchers studied salmonella reports received by the Michigan Department of Community Health between January 2001 and June 2003, and found that nearly 12 percent of salmonella cases in children up to age 5 were reptile-related.

Diet, susceptibility and the lower amount of bacteria required to infect these young children may explain why they're more likely to contract salmonella when they handle turtles, lizards and snakes.

Study author Dr. Eden Wells said in a prepared statement that parents with pet reptiles at home need to make sure they wash their hands thoroughly after handling the reptiles to avoid transferring salmonella bacteria to their children. If the children handle the reptiles, they need to be taught to wash their hands thoroughly.

Reptile pets should not be allowed to roam freely in the house and their enclosures should be kept clean.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that reptiles not be kept in homes with children under age 5 or in homes with people who have impaired immune systems.

More information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about reptile-associated salmonellosis.

SOURCE: Infectious Diseases Society of America, news release, Sept. 1, 2004

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