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

37 people sick in 13 states after Salmonella outbreak linked to pet turtles	 	 	 			Turtle

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating an outbreak of dozens of U.S. Salmonella cases it has linked to contact with pet turtles.

The CDC says the illnesses began to appear March 1 and diagnoses continued until August 3.

So far, 37 people have gotten sick in 13 states - 16 people so sick that they had to be hospitalized. A third of the cases were in children 5 years of age 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 interviews, ill people answered questions about their contact with animals, and 45 percent of the 33 people interviewed said they had contact with turtles or their immediate environments before becoming sick, the CDC said.

Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts.

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People should think twice before deciding to bring home turtles and keep these animals as pets as health authorities link handling of these reptiles to a multistate salmonella outbreak.

This is not the first time salmonella is linked with turtles. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella Agbeni isolated from ill people in this outbreak is closely related genetically to the Salmonella Agbeni isolated from turtles.

Salmonella infections cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours in most affected patients, and the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, although severe cases may require hospitalization, according to the CDC.

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 CDCand the Food and Drug Administration recommend against buying them as pets or giving them as gifts.

Tiny turtles may be adorable - but they're the source of a salmonella outbreak.

Heck, NPR reported about salmonella in pet turtles on the air way back in 1971. "They've busted two turtle vendors in Montgomery County in the past two weeks: One for selling the turtles to a Silver Spring store; the other for hawking them at the Six Flags parking lot".

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