Reptiles (turtles, snakes, anoles, iguanas, geckos, chameleons) and amphibians (frogs, salamanders, newts, toads) have become popular family pets in recent years. However, these animals frequently carry a number of bacteria that can cause people to get sick.
What reptile- and amphibian-related diseases are of concern in Ohio?
Salmonellosis is caused by Salmonella bacteria and causes diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Reptiles and amphibians have been shown to be an important source of infection for humans. These animals carry Salmonella bacteria in their intestines and shed them in their feces without being sick.
People become infected when they eat food or drink milk or water that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Children under 5 years of age and those with a weakened immune system are at increased risk for serious disease.
Preventing salmonellosis from reptiles and amphibians includes:
- Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling reptiles and amphibians or their cages.
- Not allowing reptiles and amphibians to roam freely throughout a home or living area.
- Keeping reptiles and amphibians out of kitchens and other food preparation areas; the kitchen sink or bathtub should not be used to wash reptiles and amphibians or their enclosures.
- Avoiding contact with reptiles and amphibians and their environments, especially for those at increased risk of infection (children less than 5 years old and people who are immunocompromised).
- Not buying turtles with a shell less than 4 inches in length (It is illegal!); children are more likely to put small turtles in their mouths, which increases the risk of developing salmonellosis.