Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Small Pet Turtles

Published on January 24, 2020 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections linked to small pet turtles are under investigations in several states.

According to CDC, a total of 34 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from nine states.

Eleven hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

Children younger than 12 account for almost two-thirds of the illnesses.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with small pet turtles is the likely source of this outbreak.

People reported contact with turtles with shells less than 4 inches long.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans the sale and distribution of turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets, but these animals can still be found for sale at flea markets, swap meets, and online.

There was a similar outbreak reported in October 2019. A total of 26 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg were reported from 14 states. In interviews, 16 (73%) of 22 ill people reported contact with a turtle. The outbreak strain was identified in samples collected from a pet turtle’s habitat.

Advice to Pet Owners and Pet Retailers

Turtles can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings, even while looking healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread to their bodies, tank water, and habitats. People can get sick after they touch a turtle or anything in their habitats.

People who own or come in contact with turtles should take steps to stay healthy around their pet:

  • Wash your hands.
    • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a turtle or cleaning its habitat.
    • Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
  • Play safely.
    • Don’t kiss or snuggle turtles, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.
    • Don’t let turtles roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens.
  • Clean habitats, toys, and pet supplies outside the house when possible.
    • Avoid cleaning these items in the kitchen or any other location where food is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Pick the right pet for your family.
    • Children under 5 years of age, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk for serious illness. Households with these people should consider a different pet.
  • Educate customers and employees.
    • Pet stores, breeders, or others that sell or display turtles should provide

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.