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Turtles Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

The Centers for Disease Control and public health officials in several states are investigating a multi-state outbreak of human Salmonella Oranienburg infections linked to contact with pet turtles. Due to the number of illnesses related to these small turtles, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with shells less than four inches long as pets. 

As of October, a total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg have been reported from 13 states. California reported the highest number of illnesses associated with six residents infected with the outbreak strain. Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

In some people, the illness may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.

Regardless of where turtles are purchased or their size, turtles can carry Salmonella germs that can make people sick. Turtles can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread to their bodies, tank water and habitats. People can get sick after they touch a turtle or anything in their habitats.  Pet owners should always follow steps to stay healthy around their pet. The CDC suggests the following precautions:

Wash your hands. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a turtle or cleaning its habitat. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.

Play safely.Don’t kiss or snuggle turtles, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.

Clean properly. Don’t let turtles roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens. Clean habitats, toys, and pet supplies outside the house when possible. Avoid cleaning these items in the kitchen or any other location where food is prepared, served, or stored.

Know your risk.Children under 5 years of age, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk for serious illness. Households with these people should consider a different pet.

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Tags: Health, Pets, Safety

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