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Reptiles & Amphibians Carry Salmonella Risk

Posted: July 26, 2012

Reptiles such as turtles, snakes and lizards and amphibians such as frogs and toads can make great pets but they can also be a source of human Salmonella infections. These creatures can appear healthy and clean and yet still carry Salmonella germs.

In humans, Salmonella can cause diarrheal illness that can be mild, severe, or even life threatening.

Small turtles, with a shell length of less than 4 inches, are a well known source of human Salmonella infections, especially among young children. Because of this risk, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale of these turtles since 1975.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has made a number of recommendations regarding the handling of reptiles and amphibians.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching or feeding amphibians or reptiles, anything in the area where they live and roam, or water from their housing or habitats. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer right away and then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water as soon as you can.
  • To prevent contamination, keep amphibians and reptiles out of kitchens and other areas where food and drink is prepared, served or consumed.
  • Tanks, feed or water containers, and any other equipment or materials used when raising or caring for amphibians and reptiles should be cleaned outside the house. Be aware that the equipment and materials, including the tank water, can be contaminated with Salmonella and other germs.
  • Don’t let children younger than 5 years of age, older adults, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch amphibians or reptiles.
  • Don’t keep habitats containing amphibians or reptiles in a child’s bedroom, especially children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Don’t let reptiles and amphibians roam free in your home.
  • Don’t bathe animals or their habitats in your kitchen sink. If bathtubs are used for these purposes, they should be thoroughly cleaned afterward. Use bleach to disinfect a tub or other place where reptile or amphibian habitats are cleaned.

For more information, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit the CDC website.