pets, exotic

The following information was presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery.

Hedgehogs carry a specific subspecies of fungus, Trichophyton metagrophytes, that causes severe scalp infection. Hedgehogs spit on their quills, and the dried saliva is highly highly allergenic, causing allergic reactions from handling. They also carry the bacteria Salmonella as well as mycobacteria in the same family as tuberculosis.

Chinchillas carry Trichophyton metagrophytes and Microsporum gypseum, causing scalp infections (ringworm), as well as the fungus Aspergillus niger, which can cause lung and sinus infections.

Iguanas are notorious carriers of Salmonella, which causes diarrhea with fever and possible sepsis. They also carry a strain of Serratia marscens which causes cellulitis, often drug-resistant.

Flying squirrels can transmit typhus fever as well as resistant forms of Staphylococcus.

Gerbils carry mites which can infest humans.

Prairie dogs are banned as pets in the United States. Pet prairie dogs were linked to an outbreak of monkeypox in 2004; they also can carry plague and rabbit fever (tularemia).

Cockatoos and macaws carry Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that causes severe disease throughout the body, especially in immunocompromised persons. Cryptococcal meningitis is a common, and often fatal form of Cryptococcus infection.

Source: Pediatric News, March 2005, p. 14.

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