Don’t Touch That Cute Turtle

The risk of Salmonella from turtles is well-known.  A recent report (Walters MS et al. Pediatrics 2016; 137: 1-9) with data from 2011-2013 highlights the ongoing risk with reports of 8 multi-state outbreaks of Salmonella and pet turtles were the key risk factor.

  • Children <5 years and Hispanics were disproportionately affected.
  • 88% of the turtles were considered small (< 4 inches)

Here’s an excerpt from the abstract:

RESULTS: We identified 8 outbreaks totaling 473 cases from 41 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico with illness onsets during May 2011–September 2013. The median patient age was 4 years (range: 1 month–94 years); 45% percent were Hispanic; and 28% were hospitalized. In the week preceding illness, 68% (187 of 273) of case-patients reported turtle exposure; among these, 88% (124 of 141) described small turtles. Outbreak strains were isolated from turtle habitats linked to human illnesses in seven outbreaks. Traceback investigations identified 2 Louisiana turtle farms as the source of small turtles linked to 1 outbreak; 1 outbreak strain was isolated from turtle pond water from 1 turtle farm.

My take: Turtles make lousy pets.  Salmonella infection can be fatal in some and in others leave lasting problems.

Related posts:

Eric Carle artwork at High Museum

Eric Carle artwork at High Museum



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