Salmonella Typhimurium Strand Found Related to Small Pet Turtles: 34 Cases in 9 States
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to investigate, along with the help of local public health officials, a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with small pet turtles. This particular Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak, associated specifically with small pet turtles with shells less than 4 inches, began in July 2019 and is ongoing. The CDC states that this investigation is different than the October 2019 outbreak.
Public health officials are aiding investigations by using the PulseNet system, which is the CDC coordinated national database laboratory, to best understand the source of this outbreak. The reported cases of illness range from July 29, 2019 to December 3, 2019, with a total of 34 people reporting illness from this strain of Salmonella. Eleven patients had to be hospitalized, and children 12 and under make up about 65 percent of the identified victims.
The nine states that have been linked to this epidemic are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah, with the most cases (18 total) out of California.
Ironically, there is a federal ban on the sale and distribution of small turtles with shells less than 4 inches as pets, and yet these reptiles can still be found for sale. According to the CDC, all turtles, regardless of the size, can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings which can spread to the turtle’s body and the habitat in which it lives, making it easy to transfer Salmonella bacteria to the pet owner.
Salmonella Typhimurium is a relatively common strain of Salmonella bacteria that presents with symptoms including diarrhea, stomach cramping, and fever. Most people with a healthy immune system recover within a week without treatment, however hospitalization may be required with more serious cases.
The CDC outlines important safety procedures for anyone who owns a pet turtle or comes into contact with one. This includes proper hand washing after handling a turtle as well as cleaning the tank habitat. Also, it is important to not let pet turtles out of their tank habitat, roaming turtles could potentially spread bacteria.