If You Have a Pet Turtle, Be Careful

If You Have a Pet Turtle, Be Careful

Health officials are investigating an outbreak of Salmonella infections caused by pet turtles.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says three people in CT are among dozens nationwide who have contracted a salmonella infection linked to turtles.

The agency said that the illnesses started to appear on March 1, and the diagnoses continued until August 3.

An outbreak of thirty-seven Salmonella cases reported in 13 states since May has prompted a investigation by federal and state authorities.

At least 16 of those people were hospitalized and 32 percent of those infected were children under the age of 5. Twelve of the sick were children ages 5 or younger. The CDC reports that 15 of those who fell ill reported contact with turtles or their environment, such as water from a turtle habitat, before getting sick. Six of nine people interviewed said they'd bought the turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or received it as a gift.




The CDC sequenced the genome of the salmonella bacteria found on turtles collected at a local street vendor and the salmonella found in the sick people, and found that they were closely related.

On Tuesday, the agency said 13 states are now investigating outbreaks of salmonella linked to contact with the hard-shelled reptiles.

The agency has so far reported 37 cases of salmonella illness, 11 of which occurred in NY. "This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection", the CDC reported on its website.

Results of laboratory tests from the 37 patients showed that all of them tested positive for Salmonella Agbeni, a rare strain of salmonella that does not often infect humans. The CDCand the Food and Drug Administration recommend against buying them as pets or giving them as gifts.

According to the CDC, most of the reptiles can carry the salmonella bacteria. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if you've come in contact with a reptile recently, call your doctor, Nichols says. All turtles can carry Salmonella, but it may be a particular risk in smaller or illicitly obtained turtles.

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