Salmonella From Pet Turtle Kills Baby
Baby's Salmonella Infection Tied to Family's Small Pet Turtle, Says CDC
WebMD News Archive
July 9, 2007 -- A baby girl in Florida died in March of salmonella infection
linked to her family's small pet turtle, the CDC reports.
The 3-week-old girl had been sick for a day before being taken to a hospital
emergency room and then immediately transferred to a pediatric hospital. She
had a fever, went into shock, and died on March 1, according to the CDC.
A family friend had given the girl's family a small pet turtle in January
2007. The turtle had been bought as a pet at a flea market.
The U.S. has banned the sale of small turtles (those with a shell shorter
than 4 inches long) since 1975. The ban is intended to help prevent salmonella
infection in children, but it's not always observed.
Salmonella bacteria cause salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, which
typically includes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Most cases of
salmonella infection aren't fatal. But young children, elderly adults, and
people with weak immune systems may be particularly vulnerable to severe
Salmonella and Pet Turtles
The CDC also notes 12 nonfatal U.S. cases of salmonella infection linked to
turtles from October 2006 through April 2007.
Nine of those 12 patients had turtles as household pets; they had had their
pet turtles for various lengths of time, ranging from less than a month to
nearly five years.
Most turtles carry salmonella bacteria and occasionally shed those bacteria
in their feces. Salmonella can spread to people through direct or indirect
contact with a turtle or its feces.
There are no methods guaranteed to rid turtles of salmonella, notes that
"All turtles, regardless of [shell] size, should be handled as though
they are infected with salmonella," says the CDC in its Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report.
Salmonella infections have also been linked to other reptiles and
amphibians, notes the CDC.
Preventing Salmonella Infection From Turtles
The CDC provides these tips to help prevent salmonella infection from
turtles, other reptiles, and amphibians.
- Pet store owners and veterinarians should warn owners of pet reptiles and
amphibians about salmonella risk.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling reptiles,
amphibians, or their cages.
- People at increased risk for salmonella infection (such as children less
than 5 years old and people with weak immune systems) should avoid contact with
reptiles and amphibians.
- Reptiles and amphibians should be kept out of homes of people with children
younger than 5 or people with weak immune systems.
- Families expecting a new child should give their pet reptiles and
amphibians away before the child arrives.
- Don't keep reptiles and amphibians in child care centers.
- Don't let reptiles and amphibians roam freely around the home.
- Keep reptiles and amphibians out of kitchens and other food preparation
- Don't bathe pet reptiles or amphibians in the kitchen sink, and don't clean
their cages there, either.
- If you wash pet reptiles or amphibians in a bathtub, clean the tub