September 18, 2021

CDC Tracking 5 Overlapping Turtle Salmonella Outbreaks in 27 States

Five overlapping Salmonella outbreaks linked to human contact with small turtles have sickened at least 124 people in 27 states, prompting the continuation of a public health investigation that began last year. One of the outbreaks dates back to June 2011 and another to August 2011.

Salmonella photoTwo new outbreaks have unfolded since early last month, sprouting new geographic distributions of Salmonella infections that are spreading in many cases from human contact with contaminated water in the turtles’ environments.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 7 of 10 outbreak victims are children under the age of 10. In many cases the turtles are pets purchased from street vendors because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale and distribution of turtles in 1975.

All together, 19 people have been hospitalized and no deaths have occurred. The turtles in question have shell lengths of less than four inches.

Contact with reptiles (such as turtles, snakes, and lizards) and amphibians (such as frogs and toads) can be a source of human Salmonella infections. The animals might appear healthy and clean, but Salmonella germs are shed in their droppings and can easily contaminate their bodies and anything in their tanks or aquariums. The bottom line is that they may look cute, but they can make you sick.

Each of the five outbreaks has its own type of Salmonella: Sandiego, Poona, Pomona, Sandiego “B” and Pomona “B”. States hardest hit include New York (24), California (21), Texas (12), Pennsylvania (9), New Jersey (7) Colorado (5). The outbreak has stretched all the way to Alaska, where two illnesses have been confirmed at part of the outbreak.

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