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Seattle & King County
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Home » Communicable disease facts » Salmonellosis - Reptiles and Amphibians

Communicable Diseases and Epidemiology
Salmonellosis - Reptiles and Amphibians

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What is salmonellosis?

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The role of reptiles and amphibians

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How is Salmonella infection spread?

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Diagnosis and treatment

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What is salmonellosis ?

  • Salmonellosis is an infection caused by the Salmonella bacteria that usually causes gastroenteritis (diarrhea, vomiting and fever).
  • In children less than 5 years of age and persons with weakened immune systems, Salmonella can cause serious disease and complications including infection of the bloodstream, central nervous system (meningitis), bones and joints.

The role of reptiles and amphibians

Reptiles (turtles, snakes, lizards, iguanas, geckos) and amphibians (frogs, salamanders, newts, toads) can carry Salmonella in their intestinal tract without appearing ill but can still spread the infection to people.


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

How is Salmonella infection spread?

  • Salmonella can be spread by food, water, or milk contaminated with the bacteria.
  • Salmonella survive well in the environment and can live for a long time on contaminated surfaces. For this reason, contact with contaminated surfaces can cause illness, particularly in infants and young children.
  • Infected reptiles and amphibians can spread Salmonella onto surfaces they have contact with, including food preparation areas.
  • People get salmonellosis by:
    • touching infected reptiles and amphibians.
    • Report all cases to Public Health by calling (206) 296-4774
    • touching, playing or crawling in areas where reptiles and amphibians are kept or have roamed.
  • Antibiotic treatment of reptiles and amphibians will not clear Salmonella carriage and may lead to infection with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella.

Diagnosis and treatment

  • Salmonella infection can be diagnosed by your health care provider by testing a stool sample.
  • Most people get better on their own and do not need antibiotic treatment but infants and persons with serious disease or underlying medical conditions may need antibiotics.
  • Drink plenty of liquids (clean water, juices and soup) to prevent dehydration (fluid loss).


  • Children less than 5 years of age and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid contact with reptiles and amphibians and items that have contacted these animals, and should not keep these pets in their homes.
  • Keep children less than 5 years of age away from areas where reptiles and amphibians have roamed.
  • Reptiles and amphibians should not be allowed in child care centers.
  • Families expecting a child should remove pet reptiles and amphibians and clean the home thoroughly before the infant arrives.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling reptiles and amphibians and their equipment.
  • Keep pet reptiles and amphibians in a cage and do not allow them to roam freely in living areas.
  • Keep pet reptiles and amphibians out of food-preparation areas, including kitchens. Do not use kitchen sinks to wash reptiles and amphibians or their equipment.
  • If a bathtub is used to clean reptiles, amphibians, or their equipment, clean and disinfect the area thoroughly with soap and water, followed by a solution of bleach and water (1/4 cup household bleach in 1 gallon of water).
  • If you are considering buying a reptile or amphibian, ask your pet store owner, veterinarian, and your health care provider for information on salmonellosis prevention measures.

Report all cases to Public Health by calling (206) 296-4774

External links

Updated: Monday, June 07, 2004 at 03:54 PM

All information is general in nature and is not intended to be used as a substitute for appropriate professional advice. For more information please call 206-296-4600 (voice) or 206-296-4631 (TTY Relay service). Mailing address: ATTN: Communications Team, Public Health - Seattle & King County, 999 3rd Ave., Suite 1200, Seattle, WA 98104 or click here to email us.

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