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Pets HIVers Should Not Have

Pets HIVers Should Not Have


Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no evidence that dogs, cats, or any other nonhuman primate can contract HIV or transmit it to people, that doesn't meant that all animals are a good choice as pets for HIVers. Susan Tellem, a nurse with American Tortoise Rescue, warns that owning or handling reptiles and amphibians -- including iguanas, lizards, snakes, frogs, turtles, and tortoises -- could be downright harmful, mostly because up to 80% of these animals carry the bacteria that causes salmonella, a disease marked by cramps, nausea, and vomiting and in severe cases high fever, bloody diarrhea, and even death. The CDC advises that salmonella bacteria pose particularly severe risks for infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. "Even though they make ideal pets because they are low maintenance, they are fraught with problems for someone with HIV," Tellem says. "I would encourage anyone with an immune-suppressive disease to avoid reptiles as pets at all costs." To help HIVers minimize risks of contracting an illness from a pet, San Francisco's PAWS members offer some sound advice on animals for HIV-positive people--particularly those with an AIDS diagnosis or with very low CD4-cell counts. Avoid having or adopting as pets as well as being in contact with all stray animals, animals with diarrhea, reptiles and amphibians, exotic pets (including pot-bellied pigs, sugar gliders, and prairie dogs), wild animals, farm animals, some birds (including pigeons, baby chicks, ducklings), and nonhuman primates (monkeys, chimpanzees, etc.).

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