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Thread: Your hamster may KILL you!

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    swords's Avatar
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    Your hamster may KILL you!

    Doctors: No hamsters or exotic pets for young kids

    Monday, October 6, 2008 7:43 AM EDT
    The Associated Press
    By LINDSEY TANNER AP Medical Writer

    CHICAGO (AP) Warning: young children should not keep hedgehogs as pets or hamsters, baby chicks, lizards and turtles, for that matter because of risks for disease.
    That's according to the nation's leading pediatricians' group in a new report about dangers from exotic animals.
    Besides evidence that they can carry dangerous and sometimes potentially deadly germs, exotic pets may be more prone than cats and dogs to bite, scratch or claw putting children younger than 5 particularly at risk, the report says.
    Young children are vulnerable because of developing immune systems plus they often put their hands in their mouths.
    That means families with children younger than 5 should avoid owning "nontraditional" pets. Also, kids that young should avoid contact with these animals in petting zoos or other public places, according to the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The report appears in the October edition of the group's medical journal, Pediatrics.
    "Many parents clearly don't understand the risks from various infections" these animals often carry, said Dr. Larry Pickering, the report's lead author and an infectious disease specialist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    For example, about 11 percent of salmonella illnesses in children are thought to stem from contact with lizards, turtles and other reptiles, Pickering said. Hamsters also can carry this germ, which can cause severe diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.
    Salmonella also has been found in baby chicks, and young children can get it by kissing or touching the animals and then putting their hands in their mouths, he said.
    Study co-author Dr. Joseph Bocchini said he recently treated an infant who got salmonella from the family's pet iguana, which was allowed to roam freely in the home. The child was hospitalized for four weeks but has recovered, said Bocchini, head of the academy's infectious diseases committee and pediatrics chairman at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.
    Hedgehogs can be dangerous because their quills can penetrate skin and have been known to spread a bacteria germ that can cause fever, stomach pain and a rash, the report said.
    With supervision and precautions like hand-washing, contact between children and animals "is a good thing," Bocchini said. But families should wait until children are older before bringing home an exotic pet, he said.
    Those who already have these pets should contact their veterinarians about specific risks and possible new homes for the animals, he said.
    Data cited in the study indicate that about 4 million U.S. households have pet reptiles. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, all kinds of exotic pets are on the rise, although generally fewer than 2 percent of households own them.
    The veterinarian group's Mike Dutton, a Weare, N.H., exotic animal specialist, said the recommendations send an important message to parents who sometimes buy exotic pets on an impulse, "then they ask questions, sometimes many months later."
    But a spokesman for the International Hedgehog Association said there's no reason to single out hedgehogs or other exotic pets.
    "Our recommendation is that no animal should be a pet for kids 5 and under," said Z.G. Standing Bear. He runs a rescue operation near Pikes Peak, Colo., for abandoned hedgehogs, which became fad pets about 10 years ago.

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    swords's Avatar
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    I had a dangerous hamster, garter snakes, fish and anoles when I was a kid, we played all over my uncles horse & hunting dog farm getting covered in "germs", must be why I'm so screwed up eh?

    They must be making kids with weak genes and not teaching them to wash their hands these days.

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    rattler's Avatar
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    at 5 i was knee deep in the sludge of various muddy creek bottoms catching critters.....im sure picking up a bug from the snakes or frogs was real high on my parents priority watch list given they sent me out there after them...between that and crossing rusty barb wire fences and getting scratched up im surprised i made it to 12 let alone 26....
    cervid serial killer
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    Whats it to ya? Finch's Avatar
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    Oh no, everyone who ever grew up on a farm as a child was in grave grave danger, apparently. All those "exotic" animals. Right... so don't pet the llamas...
    that makes no logic

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    What is and what should never be Crissytal's Avatar
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    I was running around at 3 trying to catch chickens. In the winter I succeeded. My mother said if looks could kill, I'd be dead; those hens hated me . Also had a male and female hog that had a litter. Good thing the horses liked me, I was always up under them or behind them. Never got kicked.

    I've caught and handled countless frogs, toads, and lizards. When something gets in the house, my mother sees to waking me up no matter what time it is (last time was 4 am) to catch and take outside whatever critter it may be (usually those little tree frogs or anoles).

    I've been dealing with fish and aquariums for the last 5 or 6 years. I had one 55-gallon and three 10-gallon aquariums set up at one point. Now I'm just down to my 55-gallon. I was fishing on the Trent river ever since I could walk.

    I suppose I should be deader than dead eh?

    Oh well.

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    Your one and only pest! Ant's Avatar
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    ugh, I have touched so many "exotic" pets and not one has made me sick. I have only got sick because of being to close to other kids in stagnant air. So what, we should avoid letting kids play with each other?

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    swords's Avatar
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    Maybe the "sterile and super safe" life we've been conditioning people for these last couple decades is actually becoming a detriment to their disease resistance. When you don't really go outside for a generation or two maybe those resistence genes just degrade? When I was a kid and staying on my uncles farm on summer vacations no matter what we asked about the adults told us "oh that'll kill ya gotta be sure and wash you hands after handling this or that and always before you eat anything or touch your eyes". Sure some of it was lies we know now but we kids always made sure we washed our hands after doing basically anything. I spent most of my summers on the farm and never came home diseased even after shoveling the dog pens or horse barn, handling the huge toads in WI that pee all over you when you pick em up, snakes, turtles, ferets, collecting quil eggs, swimming in the pasture pond, etc.

    The only warning needed is that people need to wash their hands after handling exotic animals or even domestic animals. It's only one rule and not all that hard to follow since we do have indoor plumbing in this century.

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    Sheesh, as recent E. coli outbreaks have shown then lettuce and spinach are dangerous and should be avoided too.

    Yick, who wants sterile and safe in everyday life anyways? I had also heard something along those lines that exposure to allergens and things like pet dander at a young age was supposed to decrease the chances of developing allergies. Now apparently some people think the opposite. I have an Uncle who won't let his kid eat nuts, some fruits, and other foods until the kid is like 4 or 5 because he wants to prevent allergies. (also a bit obsessive about organic everything and the potential chemical crossover from fabrics and..anything..to his kid but that is another obsessive story...)

    It makes more sense to me to just live and face things as they come, otherwise what happens if you grow up in a sterile environment and your immune system has never been challenged and then WHAMMO, all of a sudden a bunch of new things at one? Not my idea of a good idea to overload the immune system all at once... build it up a little bit at a time for me please.

    I've been around animals from the entire barnyard spectrum my entire life and have handled my share of feces, urine, regurgitated...unknowns... used bedding, cleaning out and disposing of moldy hay/straw, dander up the wazoo and other "cooties" which by some people's reasoning would have severely compromised my system but on the contrary I feel I am quite hardy, lacking allergies and the only thing I suffer from is the occasional cold every few years.

    I understand if some people like the guy running the hedgehog rescue doesn't want exotic pets for younger kids because they are afraid the kids will lose interest or not be able to properly care for the needs of an exotic animal but don't go about it by using scare tactics that could cause parents to start dropping off reptiles, sugar gliders or ferrets in fear of their children's health.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ant View Post
    ugh, I have touched so many "exotic" pets and not one has made me sick. I have only got sick because of being to close to other kids in stagnant air. So what, we should avoid letting kids play with each other?
    Yes...antisocialism...the new disease prevention guideline. Works for me

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