3 sickened by pet turtles

Posted August 31, 2017

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

CDC and multiple states are investigating a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet turtles. The outbreak started on March 1, 2017, and went on August 3, 2017.

So far, 37 people have gotten sick in 13 states - 16 people so sick that they had to be hospitalized.

The outbreak - which includes 12 cases in children 5 and younger - has been connected to contact with turtles.

According to the CDC, turtles and other reptiles or amphibians can contaminate households with Salmonella germs from their feces, so it is not necessary to touch or handle them to become infected.

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It's important for people to know that pet turtles and other reptiles can lead healthy, happy lives with their adopted families, Nichols says, as long as they are cared for properly.

The federal government has banned the sale of the tiniest turtles - those under 4 inches long - since 1975 because they can spread salmonella.

The CDC warns to not buy small turtles as pets or giving them as gifts.

In 2015 and 2016, more than 200 people were sickened in similar outbreaks linked to small turtles. That is because all turtles carry Salmonella bacteria - and the agency has traced an outbreak of Salmonella infections in people to pet turtles.

Very small turtles are especially risky, the CDC said.

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Keep turtles out of homes with children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years, or people with weakened immune systems.

Results of laboratory tests from the 37 patients showed that all of them tested positive for Salmonella Agbeni, a rare strain of salmonella that does not often infect humans. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

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". This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection. Pet reptiles in general seem to be suspect, according to the CDC.

The CDC says it expects the outbreak to keep growing because consumers are unaware of the risk and some refuse to heed the warning.

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