The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that theagency and public health officials in several states are investigating amultistate outbreak of human Salmonella Oranienburg infections linked tocontact with pet turtles.
Twenty-one cases of human Salmonella Oranienburg infections have beenreported in 13 states between May 29, 2019, and September 3, 2019. Of 17people interviewed, 12 reported contact with pet turtles before becoming ill.The ages of those infected range from less than one year to 80, with a medianage of 24. Seven people have been hospitalized; there have been no deaths. Illpeople reported buying turtles from pet stores or receiving them as a gift.
Although previous Salmonella outbreaks were linked to turtles with a shelllength less than four inches, those with illnesses in this outbreak havereported contact with red-eared sliders and other turtles that were largerthan four inches in length.
All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if theyappear healthy and clean. Animals with Salmonella shed the bacteria in theirdroppings. These germs can then spread to their bodies or items in theirhabitats, such as their tanks, food and water. People can become infected ifthey do not wash their hands after contact with animals carrying Salmonella, or their environments.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominalcramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. Children under the age offive, senior citizens and individuals with weakened immune systems have agreater risk of infection and severe illness. The illness usually lasts fourto seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment. However, insome cases, the illness may be so severe that a person requireshospitalization.
The CDC, PIJAC and other expert sources recommend these precautions to protectyourself and others from contact with Salmonella bacteria that turtles maycarry:
- Supervise children’s interactions with the animal, including post-encounter hand-washing.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap right after touching the animal or anything in the area where they live, including after handling pet food and treats, cleaning cages or tanks, or picking up toys or bedding.
- Do not let the animal into areas where food is prepared, served, or stored.
- Do not snuggle or kiss the animal, or touch your mouth, eat or drink around them.
- To prevent cross-contamination, avoid cleaning habitats, toys and pet supplies in areas where food is prepared, served or stored.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council reminds businesses and consumers thatfederal lawprohibits the sale of turtles with a shell length of under fourinches as pets. Consumers should only purchase pets from reputable pet storesor breeders.
Pet retailers are strongly encouraged to provide information on disease riskand prevention measures to consumers purchasing reptiles. Such informationincludes the “Healthy Herp Handling” poster, which can be found listed in theresources below.
CDC investigation notice: https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/oranienburg-10-19/index.html
CDC information on Salmonella : https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/index.html
- CDC Stay Healthy Around Pet Reptiles and Amphibians: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/resources/safety-around-reptiles-H.pdf
- CDC The Trouble with Tiny Turtles: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/publications/trouble-with-tiny-turtles.html
- CDC Information on Healthy Pets and Healthy People: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/index.html
- PIJAC Healthy Herp Handling poster: https://pijac.org/HealthyHerpHandling
- PIJAC flyer containing information on Salmonella for retailers: https://pijac.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/FLYERSalmonellosis071117.pdf
PIJAC Introduction to Aquatic Turtle Care: https://pijac.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/care%20sheets/aquaticturtlecaresheet122117.pdf
PIJAC website updates on this outbreak and other zoonotic issues: https://pijac.org/animal-welfare-and-programs/zoonotic-disease-prevention
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