Potential for Salmonella in reptiles and amphibians

Be very cautious on handling reptiles and amphibians as they are carriers of Salmonella bacteria. Whenever possible, wild reptiles and amphibians should be left in the wild unless they are being harvested according to state regulations.

If you handle any reptiles or amphibians, wash your hands thoroughly before moving on to the next activity. Reptiles and amphibians have the potential to carry and transmit Salmonella on their bodies regardless of how clean or healthy they appear. Furthermore, animals may carry the germs regardless of whether they are a pet, at a school, in a petting zoo, or in the wild.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that each year Salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million illnesses; 23,000 hospitalizations; and 450 deaths in the U.S. Common symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours after infection that last four to seven days. Although most people recover without treatment, in some, the severity of the illness can lead to hospitalization.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a brochure on the connection between reptiles and amphibians to Salmonella and some precautions people can take to limit their risk of getting sick. The emphasis of the brochure is on small turtles because children are more likely to come into contact with them and then touch their mouth or eyes, but the precautions suggested can be applied to contact with all reptiles and amphibians.

For more information and to download the brochure, visit the FDA's website.