People are starting to get sick with salmonella, and pet turtles are linked in the majority of cases. It started with three people in Connecticut who were reported to contract salmonella from the shelled reptiles. However, the cases increased to a high number, making the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise people to stop having turtles inside their homes.
The disease has been reported in 13 states. 37 cases of people sick with salmonella infection are linked with pet turtles, and 16 of them resulted in hospitalizations. In accordance, 32 percent of those people hospitalized were children under the age of 5.
The CDC announced that the states with the highest number of infections are New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Connecticut.
The symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, which usually appear 12 to 72 hours after people get infected. The disease can last anywhere between 4 to 7 days, and in some cases, people recover without any treatment. However, the diarrhea can be so severe that the patient may need hospitalization.
In the United States, the CDC estimates that every year, salmonella causes around one million foodborne illnesses, with 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.
It’s possible that almost all turtles carry salmonella
According to the CDC, most of the reptiles can carry the salmonella bacteria. Even the smallest ones could be the most dangerous.
“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,” CDC said.
People should be careful when they have contact with turtles and other reptiles. The agency advises not to touch either the feces of these animals, nor the water that they use to swim, drink, or clean themselves. However, if an individual ever has direct contact with one, it’s important to clean that part of the body immediately.
People have died due to salmonella infections in the past years
This is not the first time salmonella is linked with turtles. According to the CDC, between 2011 and 2013, 473 people in 41 US states suffered from salmonella infections, and all of those were totally linked with reptiles. The average of age of those cases was 4, but the infections affected people from 1 to 94 years old.
Health officials performed a genome sequencing in 2015 using samples taken from small turtles sold by typical vendors in the streets. The result linked salmonella infections in US citizens with a bacteria carried by those tiny turtles.
“This outbreak is expected to continue since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles. If properly cared for, turtles have a long life expectancy,” CDC told on its website. “Releasing unwanted turtles into the wild is not recommended. Many pet retailers, pet stores, local animal shelters, zoos, or turtle rescues accept unwanted turtles. Talk to your veterinarian about other options.”