Pet turtles can be the cause of the multi-state Salmonella outbreak

Georgia Reed
August 31, 2017

Turtles are known to carry the salmonella bacteria on their shells or skin but they do not get sick from the bacteria.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says three people in CT are among dozens nationwide who have contracted a salmonella infection linked to turtles.

Despite the frustration of continued outbreaks, the CDC's Nichols says the number of illnesses we see now is much smaller than it would be if the tiny turtle ban and warnings were not in place. At least 16 people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. Twelve of the cases were in children 5 or younger.

According to the CDC, turtles and other reptiles or amphibians can contaminate households with Salmonella germs from their feces, so it is not necessary to touch or handle them to become infected.

In almost half of the cases reported by the CDC, the patients have said that they had some kind of contact with a turtle, by interacting either with them or with the turtle's environment, such as the water in a habitat. Six of nine people interviewed said they'd bought the turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or received it as a gift.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against turtles as pets because they can be linked to Salmonella infections.

The CDC has generally encouraged pet seekers - particularly homes with small children, elderly adults or people with compromised immune systems - to steer clear of shelled reptiles.

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In 2015 and 2016, more than 200 people were sickened in similar outbreaks linked to small turtles.

They may seem cute and kids love to play with them, but pet turtles can make you sick.

Also, about one-third of the victims have been kids younger than 5, who are more susceptible to getting sick due to their little immune systems and, well, hygiene. The good news is that most people feel better after five to seven days of being sick.

The agency has so far reported 37 cases of salmonella illness, 11 of which occurred in NY. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection. The results proved that the strain of salmonella in human outbreaks is genetically closely linked to the bacteria carried by these turtles.

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

Very small turtles are especially risky, the CDC said.

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