Avoiding Salmonella – Guidelines for Handling Reptiles as Pets

Dr. Greene’s advice on how to avoid salmonella when you have reptiles as pets:

As a child, I enjoyed keeping pet turtles, frogs, lizards, and snakes (and many, more cuddly, pets). But some children who handle these pets are at risk for serious illness or even death. According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, pet reptiles and amphibians are responsible for about 93,000 Salmonella infections in those who haven’t washed their hands properly after handling the pet or the cage. For those who choose to keep these pets, the CDC has several important recommendations:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling a reptile, amphibian, or its cage.
  • Do not allow a reptile or amphibian in the kitchen or other food preparation areas.
  • Do not wash reptiles, amphibians, 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 or amphibians roam about the home.
  • If you are expecting a new child, remove the reptile or amphibian from the home before the infant arrives.
  • Keep reptiles and amphibians away from children younger than 5 years of age and individuals with poorly functioning immune systems.
Published on: April 01, 1999
About the Author
Photo of Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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