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Pet Owners Beware: Reptiles Can Cause Salmonella Infections

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The CDC also recommends that:

  • Pet store owners, pediatricians, and veterinarians provide information to owners -- and potential owners -- of reptiles about the risk of salmonella infection
  • People at increased risk (children under 5 and people with immune system problems) avoid contact with reptiles and that pet reptiles be kept out of these at-risk households
  • Pet reptiles not be kept in child care centers, nor should they be allowed to roam freely throughout the home or living area
  • Pet reptiles be kept out of kitchen and other food preparation areas. Kitchen sinks should not be used to bathe reptiles, or wash their dishes, cages or aquariums. If the bathtub is used, it should be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected with bleach
  • People always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling reptiles and their cages

"Basic hand washing with warm water and soap after contact is actually protective," says Wong. "It a very simple recommendation but extremely important. But also try to decrease the animal's movement in house: the salmonella is primarily in the feces, but since a lot of species walk around in their feces, it will be on the reptile and you won't see it. Just keep in mind that whatever that reptile comes in contact with can therefore be contaminated by salmonella, which can survive in the environment for weeks," she says.

Wong says the best way to clean a contaminated surface is to use a bleach-based cleanser. "But try to avoid that contact from happening," she says. "And no matter what, wash your hands before touching your mouth or food or a baby."

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