The Grapevine

Having Pet Turtle May Bring Salmonella To Your Home

More than a dozen states currently are facing a salmonella outbreak that came from a unique source. Public health officials warned that pet turtles could pass on the bacterial disease to their owners or anyone.

In Washington, the counties of Kitsap and Whatcom confirmed two cases of salmonella infection. Both patients were exposed to the bacteria after close contact with turtles, with one patient being hospitalized, Komo News reported

“Salmonella can cause a serious or even life-threatening illness,” Hanna Oltean, an epidemiologist at the Washington State Department of Health, said. “People should know that reptiles and amphibians carry salmonella, and they can best prevent getting and spreading the illness by learning safe pet handling techniques.”

Aside from Washington, the other states affected by the latest salmonella outbreak include California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Vermont. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 21 people from across the U.S. contracted the infection. At least seven of the patients have been hospitalized but no deaths were reported.

“Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicate that contact with pet turtles is the likely source of this outbreak. Turtles can carry salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean,” the CDC said.

The pet animals could spread the disease-causing bacteria through their habitats, tank water and close contact with their owners. The infection can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. 

The CDC estimates salmonella affects nearly 1.2 million people every year in the U.S. The disease also leads to 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths across the country. 

To reduce the risk of contracting salmonella, the agency provided a list of things that pet owners should follow when taking care of turtles. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water right after contact
  • Do not kiss or snuggle turtles since salmonella germs may transfer to your face and mouth
  • Do not put turtles close to areas where food is stored or placed
  • Clean habitats, toys and pet supplies outside the house and far from the kitchen 

The CDC said the households with children under 5 years of age, adults aged 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems should avoid having turtles. This group of people have higher risk of developing serious conditions due to salmonella. 

turtles The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said turtles can carry salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean. Pixabay

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