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.
Salmonella Outbreak In 13 States
The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, Aug. 29, revealed that 13 states are currently conducting an investigation of salmonella outbreaks linked to contact with turtles. Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York have the highest number of infections.
The agency has so far reported 37 cases of salmonella illness, 11 of which occurred in New York. Sixteen have already been hospitalized in the outbreak. Of those who fell ill, 12 are children below the age of 5.
Results of laboratory tests from the 37 patients showed that all of them tested positive for Salmonella Agbeni, a rare strain of salmonella that does not often infect humans.
The agency said that the illnesses started to appear on March 1, and the diagnoses continued until Aug. 3. Of the 33 people interviewed by the CDC, nearly half said that they had come in contact with turtles, their tank, food or habitat. Some claimed that they had purchased the turtle from a street vendor or flea market while some received the animal as gift.
The CDC estimates that reptiles are behind more than 70,000 cases of salmonellosis in the United States per year. Turtles are known to carry the salmonella bacteria on their shells or skin but they do not get sick from the bacteria.
Dangers Of Keeping Turtles As Pets
The CDC and the FDA advised the public not to buy turtles as pet or give them as gift. The FDA has banned the distribution and sale of turtles with shells measuring smaller than 4 inches since 1975 after the hard-shelled animals were linked to salmonella infections in children.
"All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy," the CDC said in a statement.
The agency said that the outbreak is likely to continue since many may not be aware of the risk of contracting salmonella infection from small turtles.
Symptoms Of Salmonella Infection
Symptoms of salmonella infection include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Most people feel better between five and seven days of being sick. Those with weakened immune systems, adults over 65 years old, and young children below 5 years old are most vulnerable to severe infection.