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Health alert sparks snake hunt in Bristol
Release date: Fri, 24/08/2012
A snake which harboured Salmonella Paratyphi bacteria which cause paratyphoid in humans, sparked a snake hunt by Bristol Environmental Health staff last week.
The snake had been one of several snakes and other reptiles owned by a man in Weston who could no longer care for them and had given them to the care of people in Bristol. The snake later developed symptoms of illness and vets had referred it to the veterinary laboratory service at Langford. There it was identified as carrying the S Paratyphi strain of bacteria.
“It was vital that we made sure we had tracked down all of the snakes and reptiles which had been with the infected one so we could have them tested quickly”, said David Thomas, Senior Environmental Officer, who led the search and who has also been taking samples from dogs and other pets in the households to be checked.”
Four more snakes and two lizards were tracked down to two different people who had taken them in. They are now being checked and at least two other snakes have tested positive for the bug.
“We have recently been alerted by a London Environment Health Officer of a baby who has caught salmonella from a snake which was another reminder how important it is to trace any infected reptiles” “Although Salmonella species is common in reptiles the S Paratyphi strain is much rarer but more dangerous than some of the others. Reptiles with other Salmonella species do not need to be destroyed but those carrying the S paratyphi have to be because they cannot be treated and are a risk to human health. It’s really important that anyone owning a reptile practices very good hygiene, particularly if they have children or are pregnant,” said David Thomas.
Fortunately in this case no humans have so far shown any symptoms.
“It was vital that officers worked quickly to ensure that if any of the other snakes or geckos had contracted the strain action was taken to avoid them infecting people or other animals. Our officers did a very good job very rapidly”, said Cllr Guy Poultney, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods.
“If anyone has concerns about their reptile pets they can get them checked by their vet,” said Mike Meechem, who leads the animal welfare service. “It’s always safer when buying any pet, particularly reptiles, to buy them from a reputable source such as licensed pet shops”,.
“If people can no longer care for their pets it’s vital that they contact a suitable animal welfare organisation to make sure they are taken care of properly” he said.
The Health Protection Agency has issued the following advice for reptile owners on avoiding the spread of disease:
• Always supervise children to ensure they do not put your reptile, (or objects that the reptile has been in contact with) near their mouths.
* Ensure children wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling your reptile.
• Keep your reptile out of rooms where food is prepared and eaten, and limit the parts of the house where your reptile is allowed to roam freely.
• Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling your reptile, their cage or any other equipment such as soaking pools.
• Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after feeding your reptile, and after handling raw (frozen or defrosted) mice, rats or chicks. Ensure that all surfaces that have come into contact with the defrosting food are cleaned thoroughly afterwards.
• Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling your reptile.
• Do not kiss your reptile.
• Do not use kitchen sinks to bathe your reptile or to wash their cage or equipment. If you use a bathroom sink or bathtub, it must be cleaned thoroughly with disinfectant afterwards.
• Dispose of waste water and droppings from your reptile down the toilet instead of a sink or bathtub.