Cases of Salmonella infections linked to contact with turtles have now been reported in 28 sates, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
To date, 149 cases have been reported across the country. Although there have been no deaths linked to the outbreak, 28 people have needed to be hospitalized.
Although there have been no cases yet reported in Washington state, Department of Health officials has issued an alert and is urging parents to teach children how to more safely handle turtles, other reptiles and amphibians, all of which can carry the bacteria:
Snakes, lizards, frogs, and toads commonly carry Salmonella bacteria, even if the animals appear healthy. Their droppings can contain the bacteria, and people who handle the animals or touch their environments can be exposed.
Young children are at highest risk for becoming ill because they’re less likely to wash their hands and they touch their mouths more often. Young children are also more likely to have more serious health consequences from salmonellosis.
Turtles and amphibians should be kept out of homes, childcare settings, schools, and other places where there are children under 5 years old.
Turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.
Both federal and state law ban the sale of small turtles with shells less than four inches long, and pet stores and other turtle vendors are required to give written information to buyers about disease risks.
People who see small turtles for sale should not buy them, and should report such sales to the Department of Health at 877-485-7316
Salmonella facts from the CDC:
Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment.
However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.
In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
To learn more:
- Visit the the Washington State Department of Health’s Salmonella from Reptiles and Amphibians webpage.
- Visit the CDC’s Salmonella Outbreak page for updates.
- Visit the CDC’s Salmonella webpage.