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Salmonella and reptiles

Salmonella and reptiles

What is it?

  • Salmonellosis is an illness from the Salmonella bacteria, usually causing diarrhea, vomiting and fever.
  • In children less than 5 years of age and persons with weakened immune systems, it can cause serious illness including infection of the bloodstream, central nervous system (meningitis), bones and joints.

What is the connection between reptiles and amphibians and salmonellosis?

Reptiles (turtles, snakes, lizards, iguanas, geckos) and amphibians (frogs, salamanders, newts, toads) that carry Salmonella in their intestines without appearing ill can infect people.


Symptoms usually develop 6 - 72 hours after bacteria are swallowed and often go away in 2 to 5 days. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea and stomach cramps
  • Fever, headache, body aches and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting (sometimes)
  • Dehydration, especially among infants and the elderly

How is it spread?

  • Salmonella bacteria leave the body in the stool. If infected people do not wash their hands well after going to the bathroom, they can pass the bacteria to others.
  • Infected persons can spread the bacteria even after their symptoms are gone.
  • Salmonella is often spread by:
    • Contaminated food, water, or milk.
    • Food prepared by an infected food handler.
    • Food that was processed or prepared using contaminated cooking utensils, cutting boards or counter tops.
    • Contaminated processed meat products.
    • Inadequately cooked poultry, poultry products, eggs, or egg products.
    • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products.
    • Touching or cleaning the cage of an infected animal - other animals include poultry, swine, cattle, rodents, and pets such as chicks, ducklings, terrapins, dogs and cats.

Diagnosis and treatment

  • Salmonella infection can be diagnosed from a stool test.
  • Most people get rid of the bacteria on their own without any treatment.
  • Drink plenty of liquids (clean water, juices, and soup) to prevent dehydration (fluid loss).


  • Wash hands well after going to the bathroom, after changing a diaper and before eating or preparing food.
  • Cook food thoroughly--particularly meat, poultry, pork, and eggs.
  • Drink only pasteurized milk.
  • Refrigerate food promptly.
  • Disinfect food-preparation surfaces and utensils after each use, as follows:
    • Use 1 tsp liquid household bleach per gallon of water.
    • Do not rinse.
    • Let air dry.
    • Prepare the bleach solution fresh daily.
  • People who have diarrhea should not work as food handlers or care for children or patients. Children who have diarrhea should not go to child care.