'Salmonella' the Facts
(See also Dr
Mike Allen's report on salmonella)
Many reptiles are carriers of Salmonella, it is a part of "who" they are and it is not
possible to thoroughly rid them of it without compromising their health. Only in rare cases, does Salmonella make the reptile itself sick.
The same as we take precautions with our furry friends (cats, dogs, etc) we must also take precautions with our scaly friends. It is a simple matter to prevent the spread of these microbes from animal to human. In fact, it is possible
that your 'Fido' or 'Mittens' is a carrier of Salmonella as well.
The answer is Common Sense, & prevention with any animal we invite into our homes.
Salmonella is one kind of bacteria. It can cause one of the Most Common forms of food-poisoning.
It is considered a "self-limiting" disease. That means that it will usually resolve itself with
no medical treatment. Many people do not even realise that they have been infected, it is
usually that mild and short-lived.
Symptoms of infection are abdominal cramps, diaorrhoea, + fever. It lasts from 2- 7 days and is done.
US records state that 80% of all reported cases of Salmonella are FOOD-RELATED, only 2- 7% are reptile related. You are far more likely to get Salmonella from food than you are from
any animal, including reptiles.
As with any form of infection, there is the possibility of becoming quite ill. This is a possibility,
not a probable occurrence. Complications arise when the infected person has a weakened immune system to begin with and / or seeking medical attention is delayed. Dehydration is the most common complication of Salmonella.
IT IS ADVISED THAT REPTILES
BE KEPT WITH GREAT CARE / IF AT ALL:
In any environment where there are very young children,
This includes classrooms,
child-care centres, as well as homes. Besides having an immature immune system, young children cannot be
totally relied upon to remember to practice good hygiene on a consistent basis.
In any environment where there are elderly people. As we age, our immune system tends to weaken.
In any environment where there is a chronically ill person because they are more susceptible to begin with.
Children under 12 years of age should not handle any reptile without proper adult supervision.
People with immature or weakened immune systems are the most susceptible to any
infection, not merely Salmonella. Reptiles do not
belong in just anyone's home, the same as dogs/cats do not belong in just anyone's home.
Common Sense + Good Hygiene =
Always assume that ALL reptiles carry salmonella and Always practice good hygiene and prevention.
WASH YOUR HANDS after handling either the reptile itself, or ANY of it's equipment such as food/water
Reptile's food/water dishes or other equipment should NEVER be placed on any surface where human food
preparation occurs WITHOUT PROPERLY DISINFECTING THOSE SURFACES AFTERWARDS.
Reptiles should never be allowed in any food preparation areas.
Extra care should be taken where reptiles are allowed to free-roam.. The Salmonella bacteria can survive for weeks on
inorganic materials such as the carpet, the sofa, your shirt!, etc.
Washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to prevent infection ~
of ANY kind!
To be effective, it is vital to wash your hands for a MINIMUM of 30 seconds, working up a good lather, making sure you rub and scrub every surface of your hands, fingers, wrists. Don't forget under your nails! (It helps to think of a surgeon preparing to enter the operating room while doing this ~ get every
millimetre of skin clean!)
The use of antibacterial soap is optional. It is the physical action of rubbing that removes germs and a plain old bar of soap IS effective IF you are thoroughly scrubbing your hands. (There is no proof, as yet, that antibacterial products / soaps are contributing to resistant strains of bacteria. It is the over-use of Anti-biotic drugs that IS a concern.)
Thoroughly clean and disinfect every surface that a reptile or it's equipment has touched. This includes the sink, the
worktop, etc. where you prepared it's food if it means its had it's plate on your
worktop! Don't forget the bathtub if your reptile uses it, or if you use the bathtub to clean the reptile's equipment.
While there are many, many commercial products available, keep in mind that they are toxic to humans and animals, as well as toxic to germs.
An effective, safe and inexpensive method uses vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide. All you need are 2 new spray bottles, one for the peroxide and one for the vinegar (plain or cider). Do not dilute either. Spray the surface with one, then the other. It doesn't matter which you spray first, just as long as you use one right after the other. It is not as effective to mix the 2 in one bottle, they need to remain separate.
Studies show this method to be MORE EFFECTIVE at killing bacteria than any commercially available cleanser, on all surfaces, including wooden cutting boards. It is also a safe + effective way to clean any fruits or vegetables that are generally eaten raw. Spray the food with each bottle, rinse with running water. There shouldn't be any lingering vinegar or peroxide taste and neither substance is toxic to you if small amounts do remain on the surface.
Another extremely effective method uses a chlorine bleach solution. Mix 1 part bleach to 15 parts water.
(A weaker solution should be used if using this directly on the animal's enclosure and this is NOT recommended for untreated wood surfaces as it can leave a toxic residue behind.)
Spray / saturate the item with solution and allow it to remain wet for 10 minutes. That's it!
Chlorine evaporates in time and when mixed at the recommended strength, will evaporate and leave no odour or residue. If you mix up a batch large enough for multiple uses, keep in mind that the container must be air-tight between uses or the chlorine will evaporate and you'll be spraying plain water!
Lastly: as stated above, there are many commercial products available for
cleaning and disinfecting which will work effectively but the methods above work
too and you may find them far more economical, eg: washing hands thoroughly with
soap and water removes all germs and therefore should be common practice anyway.
Keeping ANY animal in your home is not a responsibility to take lightly. This is even more true
relating to reptiles, and they are not for everyone. But with responsible, careful care, and common sense, There is no reason for you to have any problems at all from salmonella.
Many thanks to Bon (our US med pro) for help with this article.