Reprinted by permission of Norman Frank, D.V.M., and HerpMed

Who Should Avoid Contact With Reptiles?

The following categories of people should avoid all contact, direct or indirect, with any reptile as the risks of serious, symptomatic infection with Salmonella is greatly increased

If in doubt about any condition or treatment you or a household member is undergoing consult your physician as to its effect on immune status. If in doubt about any disease or disorder you or a household member may have with respect to its effect on immune status also discuss this with your physician. Consult your physician if you or any family member develops diarrhea which lasts for more than a day.

What To Do To Avoid Becoming Infected Or Acting As A Carrier:

If You Have To Use The Kitchen Sink

Some Advice from: Melissa Kaplan (

Most people have a choice of only two types of sinks - bathroom and kitchen. In most homes the kitchen sink is the largest of the two and usually has more counter space on either side than bathroom sinks .... if you do use your bathroom sink be sure and clear away rinsing cups, denture containers, toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes. Stow them where they won't get splashed. But most people will end up using the kitchen sink. If this is the case be sure to put away all utensils, glasses, cups, plates, food humans are going to eat, coffee makers, toasters, can openers --- just clear them all away and store where these items won't get contaminated. After you're finished be sure to wash and disinfect the sink, taps and surfaces you used. Here are a few tips: use two sets of sponges and gloves (one for human application, the other for animal); keep spray bottles of prepared disinfectant on the counter for immediate use in spraying down the sink and counter after a cleaning session. I also keep bottles of prepared simple "Green Soap" and Nolvasan (tm) in my snake room and iguana room, along with paper towels, so I don't have to keep going back and forth to the kitchen--- keeping it convenient if not actually completely simple-- often goes a long way toward the task getting done and done properly.

What Is Salmonellosis?

"Salmonellosis is a zoonosis of worldwide economic importance in humans and animals. Infection of animals with various species of Salmonella sometimes results in serious disease and always constitutes a vast resevoir for the disease in humans . The interplay of Salmonella with its host takes a variety of forms including remarkable host specificity, inapparent infections, recovered carriers, enteritis, septicemia, abortion, and combinations of disease syndromes. Salmonellaare readily transferred from animal to animal, animal to humans, and human to human by direct or indirect pathways." R.C. Clarke and C.L. Gyles in Pathogensis of Bacterial Infections in Animals edited by Carlton L. Gyles and Charles O. Thoen. Iowa State University Press, Amos, Iowa. 1986 (second printing 1988).

Routes Of Transmission And Other Sources Of Salmonellosis


•CDC. Iguana-associated salmonellosis-Indiana. 1990. MMWR 1992;41:38-9 •CDC. Lizard-Associated Salmonellosis-Utah. MMWr 1992; 41:610-11 •Chiodini and Sundberg: Salmonellosis in reptiles: A Review. Am J Epidemol 1981; 113:494-9 •Shane, Gilbert and Harrington. Salmonella colonization in commercial pet turtles (Pseudemys scripta elegans) Epidemiol Infect 1990; 105:307-16 •Troyer. Transfer of fermentive microbes between generations in herbivorous lizards Science 1982; 216:540-2 •Cohen, Poer, Pollard and Feldman. Turtle-associated salmonellosis in the U.S.: effect of public health action, 1970-1976. JAMA 1980; 243:1247-9 •Cieslak, Angulo, Dueger, Maloney and Swerdlow. Leapin' lizards: a jump in the incidence of reptile-associated salmonellosis (abstract) in: Program of the 34th Interscience Conf. on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Washington DC. Amer Soc for Microbiology 1994 •Ackman, Drabkin, Birkhead and Cieslak. Reptile-associated salmonellosis: a case-control study (abstract) IBID. •Dalton, Hoffman and Pape. Iguana-associated salmonellosis in children. Ped Infectious Diseases Journal 1995; 14:319-20 •Grenard, S. Medical Herpetology. 1994; NG Publishing (Reptile & Amphibian Magazine) Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

What The Herpetological Community Should Do About Salmonellosis

Reptile-associated salmonellosis is, day-by-day, capturing the attention of public health officials, the medical profession, legislators and the media. It is up to the herpetological community -- professional herpetologists, herpetoculturists, zoo professionals, veterinarians, hobbyists, the pet trade, mail order reptile suppliers --- anyone who is at all involved with reptiles to help stop the continuing proliferation of reptile-associated salmonellosis before public health officials will have no choice but to impose the same kinds of bans and prohibitions already in place for baby turtles. The information presented in this document has been designed to educate the educator as well as to be disseminated throughout the herpetological community of interests. If we all want to continue in our occupations it is essential we get out and distribute this information as well as to insure the enforcement of a few simple recommendations. As a start we recommend the following steps be taken:

Download and print out copies of this document. Hand them out free to pet shops, reptile dealers, reptile customers, hobbyists at local herp society meetings, swap meets, conferences, seminars, mail order customers and to anyone you know who is involved with reptiles as a hobby or occupation. Encourage contacts to, in turn, copy these pages and hand them out to others. Start a grass roots campaign of getting this information into the hands of people who need to be of aware of it. You will not only be stemming the incidence of a serious zoonotic disease, especially among infants and small children but you will also be helping to protect your hobby or occupation from legislative interference and onerous (but often necessary) public health enforcement. You and only you can help put an end to the "situation." The expense, time and effort you devote to this endeavor will be amply rewarded in ways that cannot be measured in mere dollars and cents.

This will also be a test of the power of Internet-connected herpers to reach out and affect those who do not have access to the World Wide Web. In 1970 this powerful tool was not available so we stood by and watched the turtle legislation go into effect. The power of the Internet has helped to topple the Soviet Union's dictatorship and bring down the Berlin Wall. It can surely be a tool to stop an epidemic.

A Common Question

Many people in herpetology ask why they should be concerned about this issue when the vast majority of Salmonellosis infections come from sources other than reptiles. The reason is simple. While this statement may be true, reptiles still constitute a proven and significant source of infection; even if they represent only a small percentage of all the cases they still represent a visible target for public health and lawmakers to go after. Hundreds of thousands of infants and toddlers became ill with turtle-associated salmonellosis in the 1960's and 1970's. While these cases may have been only a small percentage of the millions of total Salmonellosis cases they still were a significant number. The fact that infants and toddlers were involved made their numbers all the more visible. Reptile-associated salmonellosis is an an issue that concerns the herpetological community and can be dealt with successfully.


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