Be careful of close contact of children, at home, with non-traditional pets, warns the National Academy of Medicine (Press release)

Be careful of close contact of children, at home, with non-traditional pets, warns the National Academy of Medicine (Press release)
Be careful of close contact of children, at home, with non-traditional pets, warns the National Academy of Medicine (Press release)

Apart from dogs or cats, “non-traditional pets” (ACNT), domestic (rabbit, goat, pig, etc.) or non-domestic may be kept in the home. [rongeurs (rats, souris, …), hérissons, reptiles, amphibiens, oiseaux…]. The detention of some of them is subject to declaration or possession of a certificate of capacity, or even prohibited (1), due to the risks incurred by the most vulnerable people, including children under 5 years old. , an age not well suited to recommending hand washing.

The trauma (bite, scratch, constriction, etc.) that may occur is generally sporadic and not declared by the owner. The bite is the most common means of inoculation of a pathogen present naturally in the animal’s saliva and which can cause fatal septicemia.

Since the animal is most often asymptomatic, close contact with it also presents a risk of transmission of an infectious agent, particularly when it sleeps with the child in the room (2).

With ACNT, the risk of zoonotic disease is significant and varies depending on the animal kept: salmonellosis (wild rats or mice, birds (particularly through consumption of contaminated eggs from pet chickens), lizards, frogs (after a film for children encouraging them to kiss these animals), small aquatic turtles (3) (hence their ban on sale in the United States in 1975), reptiles (especially in young children) (4); the use of these antibiotics in reptiles (5); lymphocytic choriomeningitis (wild mice (6), psittacosis (birds); enterohemorrhagic colibacillosis (ruminants); [rats de Gambie ayant transmis la variole du singe (7) ou rats réservoirs du virus de  la « variole de la vache » (8)] ; leptospirosis (rats, mice, etc.) (9); hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome due to Seoul hantavirus (rat) (10).

In the United States, these risks were identified during the period from 1996 to 2017 and mainly concern children under 5 years of age (11). They can lead to death, and the disease most frequently transmitted by ACNT is salmonellosis (81% of cases). In Europe, the underestimation of these risks is linked to several factors: 1) the non-reporting of isolated cases; 2) the absence of an alert system, as in the United States, to collect sporadic cases; 3) ignorance of certainzoonoses, whether emerging or linked to certain ACNT species.

Due to the underestimation of these risks, the National Academy of Medicine recommends (12):

– inform the public of the risks linked to the presence in the home of certain ACNT whose detention is authorized;

– advise against, when children under the age of 5 are present at home, the possession of ACNTs which could represent a risk of bite (ferret, rat, iguana), or transmission of infectious agents (rodents, snakes, turtles, amphibians , birds, small ruminants, etc.);

– remind parents of the importance, in the event of any illness in a child under 5 years old, of notifying the doctor if an ACNT is present at home;

– strengthen health controls in animal stores housing marketed ACNTs, depending on the zoonotic risks specific to each species;

– create an epidemiological surveillance platform for zoonoses observed in children exposed to the presence of an ACNT, mobilizing all the stakeholders concerned (medical and veterinary laboratories, etc.), and allowing data sharing for detection, early treatment and prevention of these diseases.

The full press release

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