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.
Diseases and injuries associated with non-traditional pets and wildlife cited by the CDC include Salmonella infection from reptiles, rodents, fish and poultry. A salmonella infection generally causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, and headache and symptoms are normally obvious within 3 days of exposure. Exposure to cattle and goats can cause E. coli infection, which has similar symptoms. The CDC also warns of possible bite injuries from ferrets, and among the more extreme warnings are that of rabies and plague – which can theoretically be caught from rodents and goats.
Pediatricians, veterinarians and parents play an important role in preventing animal-related illness and are advised to ensure that children wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching animals. The CDC also recommends that children not be allowed to kiss animals or put their hands or other objects in their mouth after handling animals, and that animals should be appropriately vaccinated against illness.