A five-month-old baby was rushed to hospital after contracting a potentially fatal-infection from an exotic family pet.
A warning has now been issued to all reptile owners after tests on the baby, that was suffering from severe diarrhoea, revealed he was suffering from the effects of Salmonella pomona, a rare type of bacteria linked to reptiles.
Further investigations by Sutton Council environmental health officers revealed the family’s Bearded Dragon lizard and tortoises to be the likely culprits that passed on the bacteria.
Commonly found in undercooked meat, poultry or eggs, Salmonella can cause a mild illness with fever, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea, but it can be fatal for babies and young children.
The baby’s family initially thought he had a bug, but when his symptoms worsened they rushed him to St George’s Hospital in Tooting.
The five-month-old has since recovered and the council is using the incident to urge parents of young children to keep them away from reptiles.
It follows a similar incident in 2009 when a baby girl from Sutton was admitted to intensive care with a fever and high heart rate after contracting Salmonella Arizona from her family’s pet snake.
Councillor Simon Wales, the council's executive member for communities, transport and voluntary sector, said: "I’m really pleased to hear this little boy has made a good recovery. This is a very worrying case and thankfully a very rare one.
"Exotic reptiles are becoming increasingly popular pets but many owners are unaware of the health risks associated with lizards, snakes and tortoises.
"Children under the age of five are particularly at risk, especially because you hold a snake or lizard in the same way that you would hold a baby, so there’s plenty of chance for your clothing and hands to become contaminated.
"There are some basic hygiene precautions that go a long way to help cut the risk of infection.
"These include thoroughly washing your hands after handling them and before preparing food, not allowing reptiles to roam freely around the house and certainly keeping them out of the kitchen."