Atlanta, GA–(ENEWSPF)–August 29, 2017. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and multiple states are investigating a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet turtles.
- Thirty-seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni have been reported from 13 states.
- Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 1, 2017 to August 3, 2017
- Of 33 people with available information, 16 have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
- Twelve (32%) ill people are children 5 years of age or younger.
- Epidemiologic and laboratory findings link the outbreak of human Salmonella Agbeni infections to contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat.
- In interviews, ill people answered questions about contact with animals during the week before becoming ill. Fifteen (45%) of the 33 people interviewed reported contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat, before getting sick.
- In interviews with 9 ill people about where their turtles came from, 6 reported buying a turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or receiving the turtle as a gift.
- In 2015, state and local health officials collected samples from turtles at a street vendor. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella Agbeni isolated from ill people in this outbreak is closely related genetically to the Salmonella Agbeni isolates from turtles. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.
- Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts.
- Since 1975, the FDA has banned selling and distributing turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets because they are often linked to Salmonella infections, especially in young 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.
- 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.
Advice to Pet Owners
- Do not purchase, or give as a gift, turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling turtles or anything in the area where they live or roam, or after contact with pet feces. Do not touch your face, other people or any surface until hands have been washed.
- Keep turtles out of homes with children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years, or people with weakened immune systems.
- Do not handle a turtle and an infant (such as feed, change diaper, or bathe) at the same time.
- Turtles and other reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, schools, or other facilities with children younger than 5 years.
- Do not allow turtles to roam freely in the home or living area, especially in food preparation areas.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect bathtubs that are used to bathe turtles or wash their dishes, cages, or aquariums. Kitchen sinks should not be used for these purposes.
- Learn more about reducing the risk of illness from turtles and follow these simple steps to enjoy pet turtles and keep your family healthy.
Options for Unwanted Turtles
- 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.