People Across 13 States Infected with Salmonella Linked to Turtles
Salmonella infections in humans are more often than not linked to poultry and other birds, but the bacteria that causes these salmonella infections can be found and spread by most animals and be present in most foods. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Wednesday that there is an ongoing salmonella outbreak across at least thirteen states that is being linked to contact with pet turtles. The states impacted are spread widely in the U.S., including California, Washington, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Vermont.
The CDC identified the illnesses by reviewing the PFGE fingerprint of the bacteria and finding similar strains widely-spread across the nation that indicated a single source of contamination. Careful trace-back investigation led the CDC investigators to exposure to turtles. The CDC also reports that up to 21 people have been infected, with seven hospitalizations, and thankfully, no deaths. This serves as a reminder that there are precautions that should always be taken around any animal to prevent sicknesses such as this from spreading to humans.
In the report on the outbreak, the CDC provided a couple things to consider and be careful of with turtles. These may also apply to other animals, especially birds – these animal to human illnesses are referred to as zoonotic outbreaks.
- Washing hands immediately after handling a turtle or its tank is important. This will prevent spreading the harmful bacteria by touching objects and/or food with contaminated hands.
- Avoiding “kissing or cuddling” turtles close to the face is important, as this potentially provides a direct transfer of infectious bacteria to the face and mouth. Turtles should also be kept out of areas where food is going to be consumed or prepared.
- Cleaning materials and objects (like the tank/habitat, or any pieces of it) associated with the turtle outdoors is a simple way to prevent spreading the bacteria to unwanted areas indoors.
- Turtles may not be right for a family if children under five years old or elderly people are present in the home. These groups have weaker immune systems that make potential infections much more dangerous for them.
Salmonella presents with symptoms of stomach pain, diarrhea, fever, etc. anywhere from twelve hours up to three days after being exposed to the harmful bacteria. A lot of these infections can be managed from home with care, but some cases may require hospitalization to serious complications if symptoms last longer than about a week or worsen in severity. Infections of children under five years old and the elderly should be handled with more seriousness because, as mentioned above, their immune systems and ability to fight a potential salmonella infection is are weaker.