37 cases of salmonella in 13 USA states linked to pet turtles

Brandon Parsons
August 31, 2017

The health dangers from turtles are so serious that federal law prohibits selling or distributing turtles with a shell length less than four inches.

However, the cases increased to a high number, making the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise people to stop having turtles inside their homes.

CDC officials said Tuesday that 37 people across 13 states became sick with infections stemming from contact with pet turtles.

Of 33 people with available information, 16 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.

Doctors and researchers started asking questions of the victims and found that six had bought a turtle from a flea market or a street vendor - or had received a turtle that turned out to be a salmonella-harboring gift.

The Food and Drug Administration has banned the selling of turtles with shells smaller than four inches since 1975 due to their salmonella connection.

"Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts", the CDC said.

Normally a foodborne illness, salmonellosis is being linked to contact with turtles in these cases based on epidemiologic and laboratory findings. Between 2011 and 2013, 473 people were sickened by turtles in pretty much every state.

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

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

Salmonella infection symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy.

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 agency said it expected the outbreak to continue because customers might not be aware of the risk of Salmonella from small turtles. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

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