The Emergent Disease Foundation (EDF), in conjunction with other human and veterinary health organisations, has launched a leaflet aimed at exotic pet owners.

The EDF, along with One Health Initiative, Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) and UNISON, collaborated to produce the leaflet containing “important hygiene measures” concerning exotic pets, entitled Exotic pets: reducing the risk of human infection.

According to the group, the leaflet was produced in response to the burgeoning exotic pet trade and subsequent increased risk to human health.

It says it hopes it will be distributed via medical centres, local authorities, schools, veterinary clinics and pet shops to help raise awareness and minimise illness.

The leaflets are available free of charge, with the advice contained taken from an independent scientific paper entitled “A review of captive exotic animal-linked zoonoses” published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Environmental Health Research.

The leaflet states it is not advisable to keep exotic animals as pets; however, for those who already have exotic pets, recommended measures include:
  • thorough hand washing with antibacterial soap and alcohol-based gels after handing or feeding an exotic pet 
  • being careful not to touch hair, clothes (including pockets), door handles and other items immediately after handling exotic pets
  • closely supervising children so they do not put their mouths close to the animal
  • keeping animals, cages and equipment away from kitchens

Clifford Warwick
of the EDF – a charity focused on animal-to-human infections – said: “The modern world enables all too easy acquisition of exotic animals into the home. The pet trade in general, with its high turnover and diversity of species available, offers a speed-dating reservoir for bugs from far corners of the globe.

“My own advice is simple: avoiding exposure to bugs from exotic pets in the home is difficult and best avoided by not keeping them in the first place.

Owen Evans of the WVS, a charity that provides a veterinary resource to animal welfare organisations worldwide, said: “We work on a day-to-day basis with animal health issues, so we are very mindful of how animals and people can share pathogens

Avoiding transmission is best served by minimising risks, which is what this new brochure aims to achieve.”

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