Salmonella Germs in Reptiles and Amphibians: For Pet Owners

Reptiles and amphibians often carry Salmonella germs in their intestinal tracts and shed these germs in their feces, which can contaminate the reptile or amphibian’s skin, water and objects in their environment. Salmonella germs usually do not cause illness in reptiles, but can easily spread from reptiles and amphibians to humans and cause serious illness in people.

People may become infected when they eat, drink, or put their hands in or near their mouth after handling the reptile, amphibian, or items in its environment.

Most Salmonella infections in people cause mild illness with diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. However, the infection can spread to the bloodstream, bone marrow, or nervous system, leading to severe and sometimes fatal illness. Such severe infections are more likely to occur in children under 5 years old, pregnant women, or people with weak immune systems, which include adults over 65 years of age, people with an illness such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS, organ transplant recipients or those undergoing chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, Salmonella germs cannot be removed from the intestinal tract of reptiles and amphibians. Using antibiotics to get rid of this bacteria does not work and may cause Salmonella germs to become resistant to antibiotics.

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