I was recently told about a two-month old baby who had been infected twice with Salmonellosis–more commonly known as Salmonella—and was admitted to the hospital on both occasions. Salmonella is often associated with certain foods such as uncooked or raw meat. Since this baby was only two-months old, her diet would not have included the foods that usually lead to Salmonella poisoning. So doctors looked into other possible causes and found out the parents owned a pet snake that they would often put in the crib with the infant.
I also found out about another baby, who at 5 months old almost died from Salmonella. In this case, the girl’s older brother owned a snake. They believe the brother picked up salmonella after stroking his snake and then passed it on to his sister while playing with her.
It occurred to me that these parents may not have known the significant risks reptiles can have on vulnerable individuals, which include children under the age of five, pregnant women, elderly and people of all ages with weak immune systems.
For children under five, the risk comes from their less than ideal hygiene practices, and the fact that their immune systems are still developing.
The University of Guelph has a “Worms & Germs Blog,” which provides owners of all pets with credible information about preventing the spread of diseases from pets. They also advocate for legislation to have pet retailers post signs and give written warnings about the risk of Salmonella from reptiles to anyone buying a reptile.
One of the best ways to prevent spread of diseases is by handwashing:
Make sure you and your children always wash your hands after handling pets in order to avoid Salmonella. Also remember to clean up carefully after your pets.
Know the risks of keeping exotic pets, and how to look after them properly.
About this guest blogger:
Frances Weatherley is a Registered Nurse and is currently an Infection Control Specialist for Health Protection Services at Halton Region. She has worked for Halton Region for the past 8 years and prior to this has been working in various hospital settings for over 18 years.
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Do you own a reptile or a pet? For more tips and hints about your children and pets, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly: