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Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Young children should not keep hamsters, baby chicks, lizards, turtles or hedgehogs as pets, report advises.

Hamsters and chicks are dangerous, doctors warn
Article in the Guardian


"Young children should not keep hamsters, baby chicks, lizards, turtles or hedgehogs as pets, according to the leading US paediatricians' 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 five 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 five should avoid owning "non-traditional" pets. Young children should also avoid contact with these animals in petting zoos or elsewhere, says the American Academy of Paediatrics report.

"Many parents 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.

About 11% 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 diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps."

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