Pet Turtles Blamed For Multi-State Salmonella Outbreak

Toni Houston
August 31, 2017

The Center for Disease Control is investigating salmonella outbreaks in people from 13 states linked to contact with pet turtles.

Of the 37 cases, 16 people have been hospitalized. Most people generally recover after five to seven days, but patients with weakened immune systems, young children or the elderly are particularly susceptible to more severe conditions.

According to the CDC, turtles and other reptiles or amphibians can contaminate households with Salmonella germs from their feces, so it is not necessary to touch or handle them to become infected.

Almost half of the 33 people that the CDC interviewed said they had come in contact with turtles or its environment, such as water from the turtle's habitat. Some claimed that they had purchased the turtle from a street vendor or flea market while some received the animal as gift.

Since 1975, the FDA has banned selling and distributing turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets because they are often linked to Salmonella infections, especially in young children.

For those who do have pet turtles at home, the CDC advises for owners to keep them contained and prevent them from going near any food preparation areas.

Normally a foodborne illness, salmonellosis is being linked to contact with turtles in these cases based on epidemiologic and laboratory findings.


In 2013, 473 cases of turtle-related Salmonella outbreaks were reported in 43 states. Agbeni between March 1 and August 3 this year, including 12 children aged 5 years or younger.

Lab tests from the 37 patients revealed they all tested positive for Salmonella Agbeni, a rare strain of the bacteria that doesn't typically infect humans.

Salmonella infection symptoms include fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

They may seem cute and kids love to play with them, but pet turtles can make you sick.

CDC. Take care with pet reptiles and amphibians. "They've busted two turtle vendors in Montgomery County in the past two weeks: One for selling the turtles to a Silver Spring store; the other for hawking them at the Six Flags parking lot".

The CDC says it expects the outbreak to keep growing because consumers are unaware of the risk and some refuse to heed the warning.

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