The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to small turtles purchased online.
To date, fifteen people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella have been reported from 11 states. Five people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Many people in this outbreak are children.
Interviews with ill people, laboratory data, and purchase information show that small turtles (shells less than 4 inches long) are making people sick. Most people reported buying small turtles online. Half of the people who purchased their turtles online bought them from a website called myturtlestore.com, despite the federal law banning the sale of small turtles as pets.
CDC says the true number of sick people is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella.
What You Should Do:
- Only buy turtles with shells longer than 4 inches and buy them from reputable pet stores or rescues.
- Stay healthy around your pet turtle by always washing your hands after touching, feeding, or caring for your turtle. Adults should make sure young children are washing their hands properly.
- Don’t toss your turtle if you decide you no longer want it. Reach out to your local pet store or reptile rescue.
- Pick the right pet for your family. Pet turtles are not recommended for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems as they are more likely to get a serious illness from germs that turtles can carry.
- Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 6 hours to 6 days after being exposed to the bacteria.
- The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
- In some people, the illness may be so severe that the patient is hospitalized.
- Children younger than 5, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness.