Many people know that snakes carry salmonella, but very few people actually understand what it is beyond something to be avoided at all costs. This article will provide factual information about the bacteria, how it is spread, and how to prevent infection.
- What is salmonella?
- Salmonella is a bacteria which causes salmonellosis. It manifests as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after infection. Symptoms commonly last anywhere from 4 to 7 days. In most cases treatment is not necessary however if diarrhea is severe enough hospitalization may be required to properly treat the infection. The very young, elderly and those with a compromised immune system are the most likely to require hospitalization.
- When was salmonella discovered?
- The salmonella bacteria was discovered by Theobald Smith in 1885 when he isolated it from pigs. It was named after Smith’s director, Daniel Elmer Salmon at the suggestion of French bacteriologist Joseph Léon Marcel Ligniéres in 1900.
- Where is salmonella found?
- It is commonly found in uncooked foods (eggs, and pork for example) and in the intestinal tracts of common household and exotic pets. Because it is in the intestines it just makes sense that it is also in the feces of many animals.
- How is salmonella spread?
- Salmonella in snakes
- It should be pointed out that nearly ALL animals carry salmonella. Snakes get a particularly bad rap because, well because they’re snakes and it’s just another reason to fear them for many people. But reality is that a few common sense precautions will all but erradicte the risk of infection. Strangely enough those precautions are the same for snakes as any other animals…
- Wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap before and after you handle any reptiles and between handling different ones
- Keep the snake’s cage clean at all times so it is less likely to crawl through it’s own urine and feces. If this does happen bathe the snake as soon as possible
- Keep the snake away from your face at all times. A good practice regardless of salmonella or not
Salmonella is spread by ingesting the bacteria. Most commonly this occurs by eating raw (truly raw, unpasterized eggs, and milk) foods and handling animals but failing to wash your hands and then putting them near your face.
The risk of being infected by a snake is actually very low assuming proper precaution is taken. Washing your hands before and after handling a snake or cleaning its cage will go a long ways towards preventing any transmission of the bacteria to you.
The truth is that if you’ve stuck your hands in to a batch of raw cookie dough or cake batter you’ve put yourself at risk for salmonella. If you’re like most people not only have you done that, but you’ve also licked the raw batter from a spoon or fork. With proper precaution a snake presents no more of a risk of infection than doing that or petting your dog that just “rolled in something smelly” out in the backyard.