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Warning of disease risk from reptile pets
[Posted: Fri 25/02/2011 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Parents have been warned that reptiles are not appropriate pets for children under five.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) made the warning after an infant contracted botulism following exposure to a turtle or turtle feed combined.
The HPSC also pointed out that a significant proportion of cases of salmonella are associated with contact with reptiles.
Dr Paul McKeown, specialist in public health medicine at the HPSC said recently, there has been one case of botulism, in a small baby, associated with pet turtles.
"On top of that, in 2008, a year when we had 449 cases of salmonellosis, fifteen of these cases had recent contact with reptiles. Very worryingly, nine of these fifteen cases were in children under one year of age. This tells us that these diseases are appearing too commonly in households that have pet reptiles and too commonly in infants and babies.”
The HPSC says small children are not the only group at increased risk of illness from reptiles - pregnant women, elderly or frail adults or immunosuppressed people.
“Given these risks”, said Dr McKeown, “reptiles should not be kept as pets in a house where there are children under the age of five.”
He added that for most people, keeping reptiles does not pose a significant health risk, as long as proper hygiene steps are taken. These include proper handling of reptiles and disposal of waste and water, frequent handwashing following contact with reptiles and keeping your reptiles in their tank.
Further information is available on the HPSC website
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