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Highlighting the importance of hygiene in keeping exotic pets

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ADVICE for the owners of exotic pets on the hygiene measures that they can take to reduce the risk of picking up a zoonotic infection has been published in the form of a free leaflet from the Emergent Disease Foundation. The leaflet has the backing of the One Health Initiative, Worldwide Veterinary Service and the trade union UNISON and the organisations hope that it will be distributed via medical centres, local authorities, schools, veterinary clinics and pet shops.

Advice in the leaflet is based on a paper published by Clifford Warwick of the Emergent Disease Foundation in the Journal of Environmental Health Research (Warwick and others 2013). The leaflet states that it is not advisable to keep exotic species as pets, but acknowledges that many people already do so. Among other things, it emphasises the importance of thorough hand washing with antibacterial soap and alcohol-based gels after handling or feeding an exotic pet and the need to be careful to avoid touching hair, clothes, door handles and other items immediately after handling these animals. It also advises against using kitchen sinks to bathe exotic pets or wash their cages or equipment.

The new leaflet includes advice to help reduce the risk of people contracting illnesses from exotic pets

The organisations hope that the advice will help to minimise illness and raise awareness of the increased risk to human health as the exotic pet trade continues to grow in popularity.

‘We welcome this important and timely guidance. It offers essential information on the prevention and control of avoidable infection to all of our members who are engaged in areas of pet animal sales and inspection,’ said David Haynes of UNISON, which represents health service employees and local authority pet shop inspectors.

‘Avoiding transmission [of pathogens] is best served by minimising risks, which is what this new brochure aims to achieve,’ added Owen Evans of Worldwide Veterinary Service.

Copies of ‘Exotic pets: reducing the risk of human infection’ are available at


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