January 8, 2019
Small live turtles look so cute, but they can be carriers of salmonella, a potentially lethal bacteria.
A recent alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns about a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Agbeni. So far, 37 people in 23 states have been sickened since March – about one-third of them children. Nearly half of those infected had to be hospitalized.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale and distribution of turtles less than four inches long since 1975. Though all turtles may be carriers of Salmonella, the smaller turtles are more likely to be a carrier. Healthy looking and clean turtles can be carriers. It’s not only turtles that can be Salmonella carriers – any reptile may be a carrier. For this reason, the CDC recommends that turtles and other reptiles should not be kept as pets in households with young children.
The CDC has issued the following recommendations for Safe Handling Tips for Reptiles and Amphibians:
• Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling reptiles and amphibians, and anything in the area where they live or roam, such as their habitats, food, or equipment.
• Children younger than five years old, people with weak immune systems, and adults older than 65 should not handle or touch amphibians, reptiles, or their environment. These groups have a higher chance of serious illness and hospitalization from Salmonella germs.
• Don’t cross-contaminate! You don’t have to touch a reptile or amphibian to get sick from their germs. Any reptile food such as frozen or live rodents, equipment, and materials, including the tank water, can be contaminated with Salmonella and other germs.
• Keep your reptiles and amphibians and their equipment out of your kitchen or anywhere food is prepared, served, or eaten.
• Clean reptile and amphibian habitats outside your home. If you cannot clean items outside of your home, clean items in a dedicated bin and use warm, soapy water to clean the bin and any surfaces it touches.
• Don’t kiss or snuggle with reptiles and amphibians.
The CDC has made the following recommendations on selecting a reptile or amphibian pet:
• Don’t buy turtles less than 4 inches in length (about the size of a deck of cards or a cell phone). Federal law bans the sale of these small turtles, even though they might be sold in souvenir shops and at roadside stands. If you want to have turtles as pets, buy turtles with shells longer than 4 inches from a trusted pet store.
• Don’t catch wild reptiles or amphibians and keep them as pets.
• Don’t release unwanted reptiles or amphibians into the environment. This isn’t good for the animal or for the environment. Call your local reputable pet store or a reptile rescue.
• If you decide to get a pet reptile or amphibian, talk with your veterinarian about the housing and feeding needs to ensure this type of commitment meets your family’s expectations and abilities.
For other information on choosing and handling reptiles, visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/reptiles.html