Beware of Turtle: Pet Reptiles Cause Salmonella Outbreak in 13 States

Bryan Strickland
August 31, 2017

Health officials are investigating an outbreak of Salmonella infections caused by pet turtles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its latest alert on Tuesday, saying a multistate outbreak of salmonella Agbeni suspected of being spread via turtle-human contact has sickened 37 people in 13 states since March. The outbreak started on March 1, 2017, and went on August 3, 2017. No deaths have been reported, but 16 people have been hospitalized. Those with weakened immune systems, adults over 65 years old, and young children below 5 years old are most vulnerable to severe infection.

All turtles carry salmonella bacteria, and recent research has suggested that the smallest ones may be the most harmful for spreading these unwanted germs, which lead to diarrheal illness, fever, chills and stomach pain. Almost half of 33 patients responding to questions said they'd had contact the week before with pet turtles, their food, tank or habitat.

Some people said they had purchased small turtles from a flea market or street vendor, or had received them as a gift.

In end, CDC officials said the outbreak could "continue since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles". That is because all turtles carry Salmonella bacteria - and the agency has traced an outbreak of Salmonella infections in people to pet turtles. Approximately a third of the patients are aged younger than 5 years. The result linked salmonella infections in USA citizens with a bacteria carried by those tiny turtles.

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Both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration don't recommend buying turtles or gifting them. Most people feel better within five to seven days.

"This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection", the CDC said.

CDC. Take care with pet reptiles and amphibians. Since 1975, the FDA has banned sales and distribution of turtles with shells smaller than four inches.

Children are especially at risk, because, as The Post's Dina ElBoghdady wrote in 2012, "kids couldn't resist kissing the toylike reptiles or placing them in their mouths, sometimes contaminating themselves with the salmonella commonly found on turtles".

People should be careful when they have contact with turtles and other reptiles.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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