Salmonella's back. Government officials announced this week that salmonella carried by your cute little green friends -- this time frogs -- have caused yet another outbreak in children.
Aquatic pet frogs are under fire this week after 48 people in 25 states came down with salmonella serotype typhimurium, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Children were most likely to be infected. Among the reported cases, 77 percent were in children under age 10.
Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning Tuesday that all amphibians and reptiles can carry salmonella bacteria after reports of the multistate outbreak surfaced. Young children -- who would most likely touch the frogs -- the elderly and people with compromised immune systems can fall gravely ill with the bacteria.
"Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection," according to an FDA press release.
Salmonella in the guts of frogs, salamanders, newts, turtles, lizards and snakes can easily spread from a feces-contaminated aquarium into the mouth, nose and eyes of small children.
In light of the new infections, the FDA urged parents to keep reptiles and amphibians away from children under age 5, and clean aquariums in a space away from the kitchen sink.
It [salmonella] could be from turtles, it could be frogs, it can be passed from dogs. People can get it from food poisoning and pass it to others," said Dr. Steven Rowell, hospital director of the Foster Hospital for Small Animals in North Grafton, Mass. "Many times it isn't diagnosed, but if a person gets really sick they can be hospitalized and doctors may do the full testing."
The current scare isn't the first time a generation of parents somehow forgot about salmonella and pets, and it likely won't be the last. The CDC reported 107 infections from salmonella linked to turtles in 2008, although the FDA put limits on turtle sales for this very reason.
"When I was a kid, we had these little plastic trays with water, and a little plastic palm tree that was filled with little tiny turtles," said veterinarian Marty Becker.
Those pet turtles grew quite popular in the late '60s and '70s, but also led to a boom in salmonella cases.
In 1975, the commercial sale of turtles less than 4 inches in length was banned. However, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimated that 2 million households kept turtles in 2006.
"I know the CDC really doesn't want reptiles around young kids," said Becker. Especially for infants, he noted, "everything the baby picks up goes in their mouth."
Yet following the CDC recommendations to remove the turtles from homes with children won't eliminate all pet-borne diseases.
Becker pointed out that it's possible to get a variety of diseases from furry and green friends, even if a family doesn't own pets.
One of the most frightening and rare infections lurk in the sandbox. Becker said on rare occasions children can catch dangerous parasites from soil contaminated by animals.
"Forget the hot zone in Africa," said Becker, referring to a book about the Ebola virus. "The hot zone is right in your backyard or dog park."