Salmonella Outbreak in 11 States Linked to Pet Turtles

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Aug. 23, 2023 -- Health officials say they have linked a salmonella outbreak to small pet turtles.

The outbreak includes 26 people getting sick with salmonella and at least nine people being hospitalized in recent months. The cases in 11 states has been linked to the reptiles, and the CDC is advising owners on how to handle the little creatures safely.

Health officials previously have warned owners of ducks, chickens, hedgehogs and bearded dragons that those animals could spread infections, too.

The sale of turtles less than 4 inches long has been banned by the FDA since 1975. There were thousands of cases at the time, particularly among kids who touched the pets and then didn’t wash their hands before touching their mouths or eating, The New York Times reported.

In the current outbreak, about a third of the patients have been children under 5. Of the 20 of the infected people who gave information to officials, 16 said they had touched a pet turtle – and 12 of them had touched turtles less than 4 inches long.

The CDC said salmonella causes about 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in this country annually.

Officials recommend not buying turtles for kids under 5 or adults over 65; hand washing after touching turtles; and not eating or drinking near them.