A Multistate Salmonella Outbreak Has Been Linked to Pet Turtles

An outbreak of Salmonella infections could be the cause of three people getting sick

These tiny turtles carry salmonella on their shells, on their bodies, and in their droppings, so any contact with any turtle should be followed by washing hands with soap.

Investigators trying to figure out why dozens of people across 13 states have been stricken with salmonella poisoning have stumbled on the reason behind the outbreak: Adorable tiny pet turtles.

Pennsylvania had five of 37 cases reported in 13 states as of August 25, with one in New Jersey. There have been no deaths, but 16 people were taken to the hospital, CDC officials said. Twelve of the cases were in children 5 or younger.

Although both humans and turtles can harbor the bacteria, it doesn't make turtles sick, according to the CDC.

Doctors and researchers started asking questions of the victims and found that six had bought a turtle from a flea market or a street vendor - or had received a turtle that turned out to be a salmonella-harboring gift.

CDC officials said "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".

Last year, the CDC linked four recent multistate Salmonella outbreaks to small turtles or their environments, and a multistate outbreak in 2014 was caused by illegally distributed pet turtles.

The outbreak strain has been identified as Salmonella Agbeni.

This is not the first turtle-related salmonella outbreak.

The symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, which usually appear 12 to 72 hours after people get infected.

"This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection", the CDC's statement said. The outbreak has been linked to contact with pet turtles. They say all turtles can carry salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean.

The CDC advises against buying small turtles as pets or giving them as gifts. The good news is that most people feel better after five to seven days of being sick. The agency said it expected the outbreak to continue because customers might not be aware of the risk of Salmonella from small turtles.

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