Salmonella and Reptiles
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Salmonella and Reptiles

Edward M. Craft

Recently there have been several reports of young children contracting Salmonella from exposure to captive reptiles, particularly from green iguanas. So with this in mind it easy to understand why this is one of the most commonly asked questions about captive reptiles. It is very important to pay close attention to this page, especially where young children, children and adults with compromised immune systems, the elderly and pregnant or nursing mothers are exposed to all reptiles and NOT just iguanas. The main reason for these recent reports is because iguanas are fast becoming common household pets in many homes and are by far the number one kept reptile in the pet trade. If we do not take action by being responsible reptile owners we may vary well see legislation and problems much like those involving the red-ear slider turtles in the mid 1970's.

ALL REPTILES CAN CARRY SALMONELLA! All reptiles can be screened for salmonella by having an experienced veterinarian perform several fecal screenings for Salmonella. These should be performed 3 times, 3 weeks apart because salmonella is shed periodically and may not show up on a single screening and may still be present. The preferred method to screen for Salmonella is to have your veterinarian perform a blood culture to determine the presence of Salmonella since this is far more reliable than the fecal screens. A blood culture should always be performed on sick reptiles as this may indicate that not only is Salmonella present, but that it is in the disease stage. To help prevent the spread of Salmonella you should always WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER HANDLING YOUR REPTILE, CLEANING ITS ENCLOSURE OR ENCLOSURE FURNISHINGS. NEVER CLEAN THE ENCLOSURE IN FOOD PREPARATION AREAS OR EAT, DRINK OR SMOKE WHILE CLEANING. If you or any member of the household should develop vomiting or diarrhea for more than two days or you suspect that you or any member of the household may have been exposed to Salmonella you should not waste time and contact your family physician right away as Salmonella can be very serious or even cause death in some cases.

If you are concerned about the spread of this disease and would like to learn more about what you can do to prevent its spread we urge you to contact your family physician and/or your State Public Health Veterinarian for more information of this disease and its zoonotic potential to humans. THE SPREAD OF SALMONELLA CAN BE PREVENTED THROUGH PROPER HUSBANDRY OF YOUR REPTILE, REGULAR VETERINARY SCREENINGS OF ALL NEW AND SICK REPTILES AND PROPER HYGIENE HABITS ON THE PART OF THE OWNER.

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All rights reserved by Edward M. Craft. Printed in the United States of America. Original Edition 1994