Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kiss a Frog? Veterinarians Say 'No'

/PRNewswire/ -- In the movies, kissing a frog can result in a prince. But, as the disclaimer often says, "Do not try this at home."

Frogs, like all amphibians and reptiles, can be a source of Salmonella infections in people. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV) are reminding the public that instead of a prince, improper handling of amphibians and reptiles -- and that includes kissing a frog -- can result in a nasty illness.

Frogs passing on Salmonella to people recently made headlines when the CDC reported on Dec. 7 that water frogs were the source of 48 cases of human Salmonella infections in 25 states in 2009.

While the majority of illnesses were reported in children less than 10 years of age, the AVMA and ARAV are encouraging people with pet amphibians and reptiles to think twice before finding new homes for their pets if they have, or are expecting, children in their households. Instead, safe handling and some common-sense precautions can prevent illness.

"Individuals who have pet amphibians and reptiles really just need to be conscientious about the care of these animals," says Dr. Mark Mitchell, associate professor of zoological medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. "Certainly there is a risk associated with keeping them in their house, but it's no different then the risks associated with cooking chicken or eating raw vegetables. We need to understand that there are potential concerns, and we need to follow through by practicing appropriate hygiene.

"Just like any potential risk, we need to be aware of it so we can protect against it becoming a problem."

Dr. Mitchell stresses the importance of hand washing after handling amphibians and reptiles to prevent the spread of Salmonella. In addition, amphibians and reptiles, and anything that comes in contact with these animals, such as housing or cages, should not be cleaned in areas where people prepare their food or clean themselves, such as tabletops, sinks, or bathtubs.

The AVMA has developed a complete list of tips on how amphibian and reptile owners can protect themselves and their families from Salmonella infections. These tips are available on the AVMA's Web site at www.avma.org/public_health/salmonella/amphibians.asp. This Web page also includes links to resources from other organizations, such as the ARAV, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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