In what shouldn’t come as a surprise, I guess, another pet turtle-associated multistate outbreak of Salmonella infection in people has been identified in the US. Despite the fact that the sale of small (<4 inch shell length) turtles has been banned in the US for decades, the law is widely ignored, and kids get sick as a result.
The current outbreak sounds pretty typical:
- 124 cases have been reported from 22 states. As usual for salmonellosis, it is expected that 124 is the vast minority of affected people because cases often go undiagnosed.
- A large percentage (41%) of affected individuals are kids less than 5 years of age. They are more likely to put these turtles in their mouths and have other close contacts with them, are less likely to wash their hands properly, and by virtue of their age are also more susceptible to infection.
- Four Louisiana turtle farms have been identified as potential sources.
Eradication of Salmonella from pet turtles is an impossible goal. So, the important aspects of preventing outbreaks like this are keeping turtles away from high risk people (especially young kids) and using good hygiene and management practices.
More information about turtles and safe turtle management can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page. Also check out the recent infographics on management of reptiles and amphibians from the Public Health Agency of Canada.