Reptiles (e.g. turtles, lizards, snakes) and amphibians (e.g. frogs, salamanders) are popular household pets. While interaction with these animals can be fun and a valuable learning experience for children there are potential health risks. These risks include exposure to infectious diseases, injuries, and allergies. Infectious diseases passed on from animals to humans occurs through direct and indirect contact with animals. Examples of direct contact include petting an animal, while indirect contact can include touching an animal’s environment (e.g. cage, terrarium).
It is important to remember that the Animals Bylaw prohibits certain reptiles from being kept in the City of Toronto.
A common concern is the transmission of Salmonella bacteria from reptiles and amphibians to humans. Almost all reptiles and amphibians can carry Salmonella bacteria that can be transmitted to children and adults. It is important to know that reptiles and amphibians can carry Salmonella bacteria without being sick. Rodents used to feed some reptiles can also carry Salmonella bacteria or other germs that can make people sick.
Certain groups of people are at increased risk of infection. For example, infants and children, particularly those less than 5 years of age have an increased risk of infection that can cause serious illness. This is due to their developing immune systems and frequent hand-to-mouth activities. Pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weaker immune systems are also at increased risk.