February 22, 2018

Why your adorable pet turtle may make your child sick

31 August 2017, 01:39 | Rex Hubbard

37 people sick in 13 states after Salmonella outbreak linked to pet turtles

People infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni by state of residence as

It started with three people in CT who were reported to contract salmonella from the shelled reptiles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises not to buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts.

So far, 37 people have been infected in 13 states, including CT, with illnesses starting between March 1, 2017 and August 3, 2017, the CDC reported. Till now there are no cases of any deaths recorded, but it was reported that around 16 patients have been hospitalised due to the contraction of the salmonella bacteria. Twelve of the cases were in children 5 or younger. They are the ones most commonly linked to salmonella outbreaks, but any size turtle can carry the salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy. That means that if they have salmonella, they are shedding it everywhere in their environment, Nichols says - on people, on their food, in their water and in their cages.

The Food and Drug Administration has banned the selling of turtles with shells smaller than four inches since 1975 due to their salmonella connection.

We reported back in 2009 about a salmonella outbreak in the previous two years that sickened more than 100 people.

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We reported in 2015 about a Pediatrics journal account of eight outbreaks across 41 states, covering 473 illnesses. Almost half of the victims were 5 or younger.

To prevent people from getting sick, the CDC published a handy, kid-friendly fact sheet, telling people "don't kiss or snuggle with your turtle".

Salmonella infection symptoms include fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The FDA prohibited the distribution and sale of small turtles - those with shells four inches and smaller - in 1975. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy.

The CDC expects this outbreak to continue because consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles.

Through genome sequencing of the Salmonella agbeni bacteria at the heart of this most recent outbreak, scientists have learned that the bacteria turtles harbor is very similar to the bacteria that sends humans running to the restroom or the hospital.

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