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Think Twice Before Purchasing an Exotic Pet

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

A new report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that young children should not keep hedgehogs, hamsters, your-baby chicks, lizards and turtles as pets because of risks for disease.

The report, out in the October 2008 issue of Pediatrics says there is evidence that the animals can carry dangerous and sometimes potentially deadly germs. The report also says young children are at risk because of developing immune systems, plus they often put their hands in their mouths.

“Many parents clearly don’t understand the risks from various infections these animals often carry,” says Dr. Larry Pickering the reports lead author and an infectious disease specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 11 percent of salmonella cases in children are thought to stem from contact with lizards, turtles and other reptiles. Hamsters can also carry this germ, which can cause severe diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. According to the report, hedgehogs can be dangerous because their quills can penetrate skin and have been known to spread a bacteria that can cause fever, stomach pain and a rash.

However, one of the study’s co-authors pointed out that with supervision and precautions like hand-washing, contact between children and animals is a “good thing” but cautioned that families should wait until children are older before bringing home an exotic pet.

More Information: American Academy of Pediatrics

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