City of Lubbock issues warning about Salmonella risk from reptile pets

Published: Sep. 30, 2015 at 7:32 PM CDT|Updated: Dec. 29, 2015 at 8:32 PM CST
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Provided by City of Lubbock

The City of Lubbock Health Department wants to inform the public that turtles and other reptiles are risky pets. Reptiles and amphibians are sometimes sold by unauthorized vendors. If you choose to purchase a reptile or amphibian as a pet, purchase from an established retail store and follow these tips to reduce your risk.

Contact with reptiles (such as turtles, snakes, and lizards) and amphibians (such as frogs and toads) can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Salmonella germs are shed in the droppings of reptiles and amphibians and can easily contaminate their bodies and the water in tanks or aquariums where these animals live, which can spread to people.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches since 1975. However, small turtles continue to cause human Salmonella infections, especially among young children.

Tips to reduce the risk of illness from turtles and other reptiles:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

2. Don't let young children handle or touch reptiles or anything in the area where they live and roam, including water from containers or tanks.

3. Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.

4. Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.

5. Don't touch your mouth after handling reptiles and do not eat or drink around these animals.

6. Don't let reptiles roam freely throughout the house or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, pantries, or outdoor patios.

Salmonella germs can make people sick with diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and sometimes abdominal cramps. This illness is called "salmonellosis." Some people can become so sick that they need to go to the hospital. In severe illnesses, the Salmonella bacteria may spread to the bloodstream and can lead to death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Young children are at increased risk for Salmonella illness because their immune systems are still developing. They also are more likely to put their fingers or other items that have come into contact with germs into their mouths.

If you suspect you or your child has Salmonella infection, please contact your health care provider immediately.