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Pet Turtles Linked to Largest Salmonella Outbreak

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, January 25, 2008 9:23 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Toxic Substances



Pet turtles linked to salmonella outbreak and hospitalization of 100


Most kids have had tiny pet green turtles with the red slash on the side of their head.

Now the little reptiles have been, once again, linked to a salmonella outbreak that’s caused a rash of at least 103 illnesses and hospitalization of at least 24, mostly children in 33 states. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking this outbreak, the largest of its kind traced to salmonella found in the tiny turtles. Most of the cases are in California, Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Since May of 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tracked at least 103 cases. Children often are found carrying, handling, kissing and even putting the tiny green reptiles in their mouth.

The average age of the sick children is 7 and a half. Most are under 10.

The CDC estimates almost two million tiny turtles are kept as pets. If you are thinking of getting one for a small child- the recommended answer is- Don’t!

Salmonella is a bacterial disease often connected to food poisoning.  It’s estimated about six percent of salmonella infections comes from turtles, which shed the salmonella in their feces.

The salmonella from turtles appears to be highly contagious, so much so that two girls became ill after swimming in a pool with two pet turtles last summer.  One girl was hospitalized for eight days for acute renal failure. The other girl was sick for a week.  The strain of salmonella known as Paratyphi B variant Java was found in one of the girls and the turtle’s habitat water.

One sick baby was bathed in a sink where turtle waste had been disposed of.

Among the illnesses noted by the CDC, 24 children have been hospitalized with bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps fever and vomiting. There are no deaths reported from this strain.

But back in March 2007 an infant girl died from another strain of salmonella linked to a pet turtle.

Since 1975 the hatchings with shells less than four inches have been prohibited for sale after they were linked to a rise in salmonella infections in children. But consumers can still find them for sale at flea markets and over the internet and they are still permitted to be used in educational or scientific exhibits.

The CDC continues the ban on sale and distribution of the small reptiles. You are advised to wash your hands thoroughly after touching them, if at all. #



1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Nita
Thursday, February 21, 2008 3:25 PM EST

I have had two of these turtles as pets since they were the size of quarters. My kids nor I have gotten sick from them. It is all in the parenting and monitoring of these children handling the turtles. We've played with them and have taken care of them for 3 years now, and the parents just need to make sure things are cleaned up afterwards and handled properly.

Comments for this article are closed.

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