Health Officials Warn Of Sicknesses Linked To Turtles

People should wash their hands after handling a turtle

People should wash their hands after handling a turtle

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning of a Salmonella outbreak linked to contact with pet turtles. Seven of those cases required hospitalization, but no deaths have been reported.

Investigation of the OutbreakEpidemiologic and traceback evidence indicate that contact with pet turtles is the likely source of this outbreak. Of 17 people interviewed, 12 reported contact with pet turtles before becoming ill.

The CDC says illnesses started on dates ranging from May 29 to September 3. The ages of those infected range from less than one year to 80, with a median age of 24.

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. Ill people reported buying turtles from pet stores or receiving them as a gift.

Salmonella infections can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment. However, the illness may be so severe in some patients that they need to be hospitalized.

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.

Experts say that any turtle can carry the disease, and you should always wash your hands following any contact with the reptile, or its habitat. People also shouldn't let turtles roam around areas where food is being prepared. Those with pet turtles should also avoid cleaning turtle habitats, toys and pet supplies in kitchens or other places where food is prepared.

WGS analysis did not identify antibiotic resistance in the 12 bacterial isolates available from ill people. Specifically, the red-eared slider turtle was implicated along with other turtles that were larger than 4 inches in length.

Six cases were reported in California. People can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with animals carrying Salmonella, or their environments. Previous outbreaks of Salmonella have been linked to smaller turtles and as a result, the US Food and Drug Administration banned sales and distribution of turtles with a shell less than 4 inches long as pets.

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