Salmonella contamination from pet turtles and a lack of handwashing has reached a total of 76 people in 19 states; 32 percent of which are children younger than 5 years old. Reported illnesses range from March 1 to Dec. 1, 2017, and since the CDC’s last update this increase in the number of confirmed sick people includes 30 hospitalizations. The case count includes the following states: California, Connecticut, Deleware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, and now Virginia.
Salmonella can be spread from the turtles to food or household surfaces after the handling of turtles or their habitats. Proper handwashing should always be practiced after engaging with turtles or their environment. Turtles with shells less than 4 inches were banned for distribution and retail as pets by the FDA in 1975. Specifically, in young children, these turtles were frequently linked to Salmonella infections but all sizes of turtles can carry Salmonella bacteria.
According to the CDC, state and local health officials collected samples from turtles at a street vendor during a 2015 outbreak; “Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella Agbeni isolated from ill people in this outbreak was closely related genetically to the Salmonella Agbeni isolates from the turtles at the street vendor. This close genetic relationship means that illnesses in this outbreak were likely linked to turtles.”
The CDC expects that these outbreaks will continue due to the consumers who are unaware of this risk. Simple steps your family and pets can take to stay healthy can be found here.