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An estimated 3% of households in the United States own at least one reptile. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, can carry germs that make people sick. Of greatest importance is salmonellosis. An estimated 70,000 people get salmonellosis from contact with reptiles in the United States each year.

Learn more about salmonellosis associated with reptiles below.

Salmonella Infection (salmonellosis): A bacterial disease associated with reptiles, including lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises.

Is a turtle the right pet for your family? What can be done to prevent turtle-associated salmonellosis?

Learn the answers to this and more by visiting our Spotlight on Turtles!

CDC reports and recommendations

Reptile-associated Salmonellosis --- selected states, 1998-2002
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. December 12, 2003 / 52(49):1206-1209.

Turtles Kept as Pets

Turtle-Associated Salmonellosis in Humans --- United States, 2006--2007
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. July 6, 2007 / 56(26);649-652.

Recommendations for preventing transmission of Salmonella from reptiles and amphibians to humans

  • Pet-store owners, health-care providers, and veterinarians should provide information to owners and potential purchasers of reptiles and amphibians about the risks for and prevention of salmonellosis from these pets.
  • Persons at increased risk for infection or serious complications from salmonellosis (e.g., children aged <5 years and immunocompromised persons) should avoid contact with reptiles and amphibians and any items that have been in contact with reptiles and amphibians.
  • Reptiles and amphibians should be kept out of households that include children aged <5 years or immunocompromised persons. A family expecting a child should remove any pet reptile or amphibian from the home before the infant arrives.
  • Reptiles and amphibians should not be allowed in childcare centers.
  • Persons always should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling reptiles and amphibians of their cages.
  • Reptiles and amphibians should not be allowed to roam freely throughout a home or living area.
  • Pet reptiles and amphibians should be kept out of kitchens and other food-preparation areas. Kitchen sinks should not be used to bathe reptiles and amphibians or to wash their dishes, cages, or aquariums. If bathtubs are used for these purposes, they should be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected with bleach.
  • Reptiles and amphibians in public settings (e.g., zoos and exhibits) should be kept from direct or indirect contact with patrons except in designated animal-contact areas equipped with adequate hand-washing facilities. Food and drink should not be allowed in animal-contact areas.

Important Tip!

Children under 5 years old and people with weak immune systems (such as HIV/AIDS) should avoid contact with reptiles. These people can get very sick from a germ, called Salmonella, that reptiles carry. Reptiles include lizards, snakes, and turtles.