January 28, 2020 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hasannounced that the agency and public health officials in several states areinvestigating a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Typhimuriuminfections linked to contact with small pet turtles. This investigation is notrelated to the October 2019 outbreak of Salmonella Oranienburg linked to petturtles.
Thirty-four cases of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections have beenreported in nine states between July 29, 2019, and December 3, 2019. Of 22people interviewed, 18 reported contact with pet turtles before becoming ill.The ages of those infected range from one year to 71, with a median age ofseven. Eleven people have been hospitalized; there have been no deaths. Illpeople reported buying small pet turtles from flea markets, swap meets orreceiving turtles as a gift. Eleven people remembered the size of theirturtle, and all of them reported contact with turtles whose shells were lessthan four inches long.
Previous Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to turtles with a shelllength less than four inches. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council remindsbusinesses and consumers that federal lawprohibits the sale of turtles witha shell length of under four inches as pets. Consumers should only purchasepets from reputable pet stores or breeders.
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 six hours and six days after infection. Children under the ageof five, adults over the age of 65 and individuals with weakened immunesystems have a greater risk of infection and severe illness. The illnessusually lasts four to seven days, and most individuals recover withouttreatment. However, in some cases, the illness may be so severe that a personrequires hospitalization.
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.
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/typhimurium-1-20/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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