SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida mother whose daughter was hospitalized due to salmonella contamination has words of warning for families that have reptiles as pets.

Judy Nobles has a bearded dragon but didn’t know that it could have made her newborn daughter, Lillie, sick.

“It’s a type of lizard. It’s from the desert,” Nobles said. “We purchased it a year and a half ago.”

With having a baby, Nobles knows that hygiene is important, especially after handling her bearded dragon, so she washes her hands every time she picks up her 4-week-old.

Despite her precautions, she didn’t realize salmonella could even be a factor with having a reptile. “We had no idea that it could make her sick or make anybody sick, for that matter,” Nobles said.

One day, Lillie began to have fever-like symptoms and then stopped eating. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors told the family that salmonella was the cause.

“When the doctors explained to me how bad this actually could have gotten, that it’s life-threatening, she could have passed away, that thought was just dreadful,” Nobles said.

According to officials at Baptist Hospital, they see incidents like this at least once a week. Most of these cases involve children.

“Reptiles, especially lizards and turtles, they are a natural reservoir for it,” said Dr. Ricardo Quiero with Baptist Health.

Quiero took care of Lillie over her stay at the hospital.

He said salmonella can be extremely dangerous, especially for children and the elderly. Twelve months of age or people over 50,” Quiero said, “and people who are immune suppressed.”

Lillie got sick because the bacteria spread to the mother’s clothing and eventually spread to the 4-week-old when she picked her up.

Now, her mom has some advice. “Don’t even have reptiles until the child is older,” Nobles said.

Lillie was given the OK to rest at home after her 10-day stay at the hospital, Thursday.

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