ATLANTA, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The right animal can be fun and educational in a childcare center but the wrong animal can make kids sick, a U.S. health official warned.
Dr. Neil Vora, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said examples of risky pets include reptiles such as turtles, lizards and snakes, as well as amphibians such as frogs and salamanders -- all commonly carry salmonella.
"Children younger than age 5 are at particularly high risk for serious illness with salmonella," Vora said. "This is why it's particularly important that pets or animals carrying salmonella are not kept in day care centers."
Vora says small pet turtles are still sold in some places despite federal rules banning such sales.
Nearly 1.4 million human cases of sickness from salmonella and 600 associated deaths are reported each year, the CDC said. Reptile and amphibian exposures might cause more than 70,000 of these cases annually.
The findings were published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.