As an elementary school teacher, I know many teachers who are enthusiastic about having a class pet. Class pets are a gift to the classroom in many ways. They build students’ enthusiasm for school, provide endless teaching moments, and offer a new experience to a student who does not have a pet at home. Unfortunately, reptiles—one of the most popular class pets—often carry salmonella bacteria.
Recently, the Center for Disease Control advised parents not to purchase the African dwarf frog for children under the age of 5 due to an ongoing problem with salmonella bacteria.
The salmonella on these frogs has made nearly 240 people sick, mostly kids, since 2009. Youngsters are considered to be at a higher risk of getting sick because they are more likely to handle the reptiles and then touch food or their mouths without washing their hands, making it more likely for young children to ingest the bacteria and become sick.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend purchasing a reptile as a pet, especially if an infant is in the home. If you already own a turtle, reptile, or amphibian, the FDA offers some basic rules to prevent illness.
First, remember to wash hands thoroughly after handling the pet, cleaning its housing, or changing its water. Also, use soap and water to clean any items that were touched by the pet, including carpets. The kitchen sink is not a good place to clean tanks and other pet supplies as food may come in contact with any bacteria left behind.
After cleaning, use bleach to disinfect the area where the items were cleaned. Even if you are taking precautions, continue to monitor children for symptoms of salmonella infection. These include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache and fever. Call your doctor if a member of your family experiences these symptoms after contact with a reptile.
Helpful teacher and parent resource for choosing the right pet: