Boy Came Home from Mall with Salmonella, Mom Says

Mother filed lawsuit against reptile store at Gurnee Mills

A 2-year-old boy from McHenry County was hospitalized with salmonellosis in December 2007, and his mother is blaming a snake in the grass. Or rather, a snake at the mall.

Sara Wirtz filed a lawsuit against the Serpent Safari in Gurnee Mills, alleging that her son Trevor contracted salmonella after touching a snake there. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 for medical expenses.

Serpent Safari is an indoor reptile park in the Gurnee Mills mall. Snakes and other reptiles are on display as well as for sale, and visitors are allowed to pet and hold some of them.

Employees "allowed and encouraged a 2-year-old child to touch or pet a snake," says the court document.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reptiles—including snakes, lizards, and turtles—can carry salmonella without any visible signs, easily passing it along to people who touch them. The CDC recommends thoroughly washing hands after touching a reptile, and laundering any clothing that the reptile may have touched.

Wirtz accuses the business of negligence because signs were not posted about the risk of salmonella infection, and hand sanitizer was not available.

Lou Daddono, owner of Serpent Safari, has contested the claims, reports the Daily Herald. He "questioned why it took two years for the salmonella suit to be filed." In fact, his business has been open since 1998, and hundreds of thousands of visitors have touched the snakes without a problem.

Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.

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