Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Pet Turtles

Henrietta Brewer
October 12, 2019

Federal health officials are warning about a salmonella outbreak linked to pet turtles.

Twenty-one people have been infected with the strain of Salmonella Oranienburg, the CDC announced Wednesday.

The cases were reported in Kitsap and Whatcom County and one patient had to be hospitalized for the infection.

The two cases marked the first from Washington state to be tied to an outbreak of salmonella infections traced back to pet turtles, according to the state.

According to the CDC, turtles can appear healthy but still carry Salmonella germs in their droppings, which can spread to their surroundings.

The CDC states that people shouldn't "kiss or snuggle" with turtles, and they should wash their hands after touching the pets. They shed more salmonella bacteria than adult turtles, the CDC said, and children are more likely to think of them as toys and to put them into their mouths.

The CDC advises pet owners to thoroughly wash their hands following contact with pet turtles. People also shouldn't let turtles roam around areas where food is being prepared.

In addition, avoid cleaning a turtle's habitats, toys or pet supplies in the kitchen or any other location where food is prepared or stored - clean it outside the house when possible, health officials advised.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria.

Children younger than five years old, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Illnesses are more likely to be severe in the elderly and infants, according to the CDC, which estimates salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses in the USA each year.

Ill people reported contact with red-eared sliders and other turtles that were larger than four inches in length. CDC officials also using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing methods from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System to test 3 outbreak isolates, which also did not detect antibiotic resistance. Ill people reported buying pet turtles from pet stores or receiving them as a gift.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sales and distribution of turtles with shells less than four inches long.

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