Outbreak Of Salmonella Due To Pet Turtles — CDC

Mayur Kakade  Getty Images STOCK

Mayur Kakade Getty Images STOCK

Federal health officials are warning about a salmonella outbreak linked to pet turtles. People can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with animals carrying Salmonella, or their environments. Thus far, 7 hospitalizations have been documented, but no deaths have been recorded at this time.

Turtle droppings are often a source of salmonella bacteria, according to the CDC, which notes these germs can spread to other areas within the turtle's water tank or habitat.

"People should know that reptiles and amphibians carry salmonella, and they can best prevent getting and spreading the illness by learning safe pet handling techniques", Hanna Oltean, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health, said in a prepared statement. They shed more salmonella bacteria than adult turtles, the CDC said, and children are more likely to think of them as toys and to put them into their mouths. Other states where multiple cases were reported were Illinois, New York and Washington.

Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a turtle or cleaning its habitat.

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The CDC says not to kiss or snuggle turtles, and not to let the pets roam freely in areas where food is prepared. This handwashing practice should take place whenever someone feeds a pet turtle or cleans its habitat, as well.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection.

Children younger than 5 years old and adults 65 and older, as well as those with weakened immune systems, are more likely to experience severe cases of the infection.

The health agency is continuing to investigate the outbreak. Of the 17 people interviewed, 12 (71%) reported contact with a pet turtle. Testing of three outbreak isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing methods by CDC's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory confirmed these results. "Previous Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to turtles with a shell length [of] less than 4 inches".

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