One problem with keeping uncommon animal species as pets is that we don’t know much about them from an infectious disease standpoint. Some species end up being pretty low risk while others end up causing unexpected infectious disease challenges.

A Texas family found this out the hard way, after their 16-year-old daughter got sick after being bitten by a kinkajou. Kinkajous are strange little critters that are somewhat related to raccoons. Paris Hilton helped fuel the kinkajou fad a few years about after she adopted one (and was bitten by it shortly thereafter). They tend not be be good pets because they are nocturnal and can be antisocial or aggressive during the day (like a lot of people that are kept awake when they want to be asleep).

I wrote earlier this year about concerns regarding the raccoon roundworm, Baylisascaris procyonis, in kinkajous. This more recent report involves an infection that set in after the Texas girl was bitten by her aunt’s six-week-old kinkajou. Within 24 hours of being bitten, the girl was severely ill and ended up in hospital for six days. She was treated with antibiotics and responded to treatment.

Because "kinka-what?" was the response to being told that the girl had been bitten, the family and their doctors researched diseases that might be associate with kinkajou exposure. One thing they found was a bacterium called Kingella potus, which was recently found in kinkajous (and subsequently in people with kinkajou bites). Nowhere in the news report does it actually say that this bacterium was identified in the girl, so it’s unclear what really happened.

This is yet another example of what can happen when people buy pets that neither they nor the veterinary and medical communities know much about. The recent debacle in Ohio that culminated in the deaths of a large number of exotic animals was a high profile example of the weak to non-existent laws (or enforcement) pertaining to exotic animals in many areas, something that continues to put both animals and people at risk.