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Fact Sheet

For Immediate Release: October 6, 2008
Contact: Division of News & Electronic Media, Office of Communication
(404) 639-3286

Kids and Pets: CDC Advice for Staying Healthy and Happy

CDC experts caution parents, pediatricians, and veterinarians to be aware of the risks that exotic animals and pets can pose to children. A study released in Pediatrics' October issue outlined the diseases that can be transmitted to children when they come in contact with reptiles, rodents, mammals, birds, amphibians, non-human primates and fish. Many families own non-traditional pets, and children may encounter animals at petting zoos, farms and pet stores. Parents are urged to talk to the family veterinarian or pediatrician to learn how to ensure that their child's experience with animals is both safe and enjoyable.

Some diseases and injuries associated with non-traditional pets and wildlife:

Reptiles (e.g., turtles, lizards, snakes, etc.) Salmonella infection
Rodents (e.g., hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, squirrels, etc.) Salmonella infection, plague, Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)
Fish Mycobacterium, Aeromonas, Vibrio, Salmonella, and Streptococcus infections
Cattle E. coli infection
Goats Cryptosporidium and E. coli infections, rabies
Baby poultry (e.g., chicks, ducklings, etc.) Salmonella infection
Ferrets Bite injuries, rabies

Pediatricians, veterinarians and parents play an important role in preventing animal-related illness.

  • Children should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching animals.
  • Parents should supervise handwashing for children younger than five years of age.
  • Never touch wild animals or bring them home as pets.
  • Always supervise children, especially those younger than five, during interaction with animals.
  • Children should not be allowed to kiss animals or put their hands or other objects in their mouth after handling animals.
  • Pediatricians and veterinarians should advise parents about appropriate pet selection and how to avoid animal-transmitted illnesses.
  • Family pets should be kept in good health and vaccinated appropriately.
  • Parents should consult a pediatrician and/or veterinarian if a child is bitten by an animal.

To read the full text of the article, including expanded lists of animals, diseases, and prevention advice, click here. More information on this subject can be found at


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