It’s not a shocker, but another multistate turtle-associated outbreak of salmonellosis has been ongoing in the US. CDC has reported on an outbreak of Salmonella Agbeni infections involving 37 people in 13 states. As is almost always the case, the number of reported infections is probably a small fraction of the number of people who actually got infected.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Cases were reported between March 1 and August 3, 2017 (and are probably ongoing).  The map below shows the case distribution by state.
  • Almost half of infected individuals have been hospitalized. That’s a pretty high percentage for an outbreak like this.
  • As is typical, kids bear the brunt of the problem, with 32% of infected individuals being 5 years of age or younger.
  • Contact with turtles or their environments in many of the infected individuals was identified. Those without reported turtle contact probably still had direct or indirect contact somehow that they either didn’t know about or didn’t recall.  This Salmonella strain is rare and the close genetic relatedness of the Salmonella isolates from affected people is consistent with a common source. Furthermore, this Salmonella type was found in turtles from a street vendor in the US in 2015.

Salmonella is not uncommon in reptiles, particularly turtles. Turtles are often implicated in outbreaks because they are common pets (despite a long established and flouted US ban on the sale of turtles with shell lengths less than 4 inches). Small turtles are a major issue because they can be handled easily by small children.

The report concludes:

All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy. This outbreak is expected to continue since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles. If properly cared for, turtles have a long life expectancy.

More information about turtles and Salmonella can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.