Small turtles have been linked to an 11-state salmonella outbreak, resulting in at least 15 illnesses and five hospitalizations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday.
All 15 cases confirmed to date could be traced to turtles with shells smaller than four inches, the report stated. Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington have each confirmed two salmonella infections, while Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina and Virginia have confirmed one case each.
According to the Mayo Clinic, salmonella bacteria typically attacks the intestinal tract and is most commonly acquired by consuming contaminated food or water, but birds and reptiles are also known to transmit salmonella to humans.
The bacteria can be present in the droppings of small turtles, which can easily be transferred to their tank water, their bodies or any surface the turtles touch, according to the CDC.
According to NBC News, the CDC reported a similar salmonella outbreak in September 2021, which resulted in 87 infections, 32 hospitalizations and one death. Meanwhile, the network also reported a 2012 outbreak linked to turtles that sickened 66 people, while a 2007 outbreak caused 103 infections.
Meanwhile, the Human Society of the United States offers the following standing warning regarding pet turtles:
“A small turtle may seem harmless, giving parents a false sense that they’re a safe pet for children, but the disease risk is so great that selling small turtles is illegal in the United States.”
Indeed, a 1975 regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandates that turtles and turtle eggs whose shells are not longer than 4 inches cannot be sold or otherwise commercially distributed in the U.S., NBC News reported.
Despite the prohibition of selling small turtles, they are still often found in stores – both online and brick-and-mortar – as well as at flea markets and roadside stands, the CDC stated.
According to the agency, three of the cases connected to the current salmonella outbreak involve people who bought turtles from a website called myturtlestore.com, which sells turtles at prices ranging from $20 to $1,000, the network reported.
Salmonella symptoms typically include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, headache and dehydration, according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to the CDC, salmonella causes nearly 1.4 million infections in the U.S. each year, resulting in more than 400 deaths.
Meanwhile. the CDC encouraged turtle owners to wash their hands after handling turtles or their tank water to avoid possible infection. Turtle owners are also advised to avoid kissing or snuggling their turtles.
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