Taking a break from canine flu and going back to an old favorite… Salmonella and reptiles.

CDC has released their final update on a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Agbeni infections associated with contact with pet turtles. Turtles are very well known as high risk animals for transmitting Salmonella. Even healthy turtles often carry Salmonella and people can be exposed through contact with turtles or their environment.

Here are the highlights of the final report:

  • 76 infections were identified in people from 19 states between March 1st and December 1st, 2017. Presumably, the true number of infections was many times that because most cases are never diagnosed.
  • Details were available for 63 people who were infected, 30 of whom were hospitalized. That’s a very high percentage for an outbreak like this.
  • 32% of infections were in kids under 5 years of age. That’s common, based on their increased susceptibility to disease, a greater likelihood samples will be collected for testing in sick kids, and close contact between kids and turtles.
  • 38% of sick people reported contact with turtles or their environments. The Salmonella strain that was involved had been previously found in turtles from a street vendor, supporting turtles as a source.

This report doesn’t change anything since we know that turtle contact is a big risk factor for salmonellosis, and that kids are the highest risk group. That’s why reptiles should not be kept in households with young kids (or other high risk people).

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

Image: Two red-eared slider turtles, Trachymys scripta elegans (CDC Public Health Image Library #15619)