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Is it true that

Pet Reptiles can

make people Sick?

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In the United States of America, the Food and Drug
Administration banned the interstate shipment and sale of
turtles less than four inches in length in 1975, the stated
reason being the danger to the public of contracting
Salmonellosis. Note that turtles and other reptiles that are
carrying Salmonella that may infect humans don't show signs
of sickness themselves.

Unfortunately, the incidence of Salmonellosis in humans has
only increased since then, possibly one reason for this
being that reptiles of all types have become more popular as
pets, and although any animal including humans can be a
carrier of the disease, reptiles and amphibians more
commonly have Salmonella bacteria on their bodies. Improper
care and hygiene by reptile keepers is how the bacteria are
spread, and a small child who handled a reptile with
Salmonella-containing fecal material on its body could
become seriously ill, or even die, as a consequence.

Salmonella is a bacterium that is found all over the world,
and there are around two thousand types, each with its own
host animal. The bacteria are commonly acquired through poor
food handling and the condition can be fairly easily
prevented with proper care. The use of common sense and
these guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention will protect any responsible reptile owner and
their families and household visitors from this disease:

1) "Reptile owners should ALWAYS wash their hands after
handling reptiles and their cages." (Author's note: Handle
all turtles and surfaces with which they have come in
contact as if they are contaminated with Salmonella, because
there is a good possibility that they are. Basically, this
simply means that you should wash your hands and the
surfaces and supplies with detergent soap such as dish

2) "Persons at increased risk for infection or serious
complications (i.e., children under 5 yrs of age and immuno-
compromised persons) should avoid contact with reptile
pets." (Author's note: Remember that you can carry the
Salmonella bacteria from your pet to others. After cleaning
your pet's cage, be careful to avoid touching your own body,
surfaces such as door knobs and light switches, or your
small children until you have washed your hands.)

3) "Reptiles should not be kept in households with children
under 1 yr of age or immuno-compromised persons; families
expecting new children should give away their pet reptiles
before the baby arrives." (Author's note: This suggestion is
apparently based on the assumption that the other
suggestions will not be followed. Many families with small
children have safely kept reptile pets by simply following
basic hygiene rules and then keeping the children and
reptiles apart - a good safety measure for the reptile as

4) "Reptiles should not be kept in child-care centers."

5) "Reptiles should not be allowed to roam freely throughout
the house."

6) "Reptiles should be kept out of kitchens and other food
preparation areas to prevent contamination. Kitchen sinks
should NOT be used to bathe the animals or wash the animals'
dishes, cages, or aquariums. If bathtubs are used for these
purposes, they should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized

In summary, reptile pets including turtles can carry
salmonella and people can come down with Salmonellosis as a
result; but if you are aware of the issue and use good
hygiene as well as keep your pet reptile's habitat as clean
as possible, you will greatly reduce if not remove the risk.

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