Salmonella Outbreak In 26 States Blamed On Touching Turtles; More Than 130 People Affected

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald May 20, 05:00 am

Small turtles are the culprit behind the most recent salmonella outbreak in the U.S. The country's federal officials said people were infected after touching turtles smaller than four inches in length.

According to a report from CNN, 133 individuals in 26 states became sick between January 2015 and April 2016 after contracting salmonella. Thirty-eight of those people were hospitalized and that number will likely increase as days pass by.

Salmonella gives abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever 12 to 72 hours after a person gets infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote. Illnesses from salmonella commonly last four to seven days and some people usually recover even without treatment. Others' cases, however, become so severe that they need hospitalization.

Turtles Carry The Disease

Four turtle farms located in Louisiana are the potential sources of the most recent salmonella outbreak, the World Health Organization reported from initial investigations. Turtles usually have bacteria on the skin and shell though they don't get ill from the germs. That's not the same for children who come in contact with the animals.

Children touching turtles or their habitat can acquire the bacteria when they put their unwashed hands into their mouths. Kids under five years old and adults over the age of 65 have weak immune systems that can make them vulnerable from severe salmonella infection.

Out of the victims of this salmonella outbreak, 41 percent are under five years old. The youngest is one-year-old and the oldest is aged 78.

Salmonella Outbreak Will Persist

The CDC believes that the salmonella outbreak will continue at a low level in the next couple of months. This is because many people are still naïve when it comes to the health risks carried by turtles, CBS News reported. In order to monitor and inspect the salmonella outbreaks, the CDC teamed up with state governments, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Department of Agriculture and the Food & Drug Administration.


In 1975, the FDA banned selling turtles with shells less than 4 inches in size. According to a warning from the CDC, all turtles in all sizes are carriers of salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean, CBS News noted.

The organization urges pet store owners not to sell the reptiles and to wash their hands meticulously after touching the reptiles and other animals. The FDA added that aquariums shouldn't be cleaned in a sink that is also used for handling food.

Another salmonella outbreak from April to May this year reportedly originated from Taylor Farms in Salinas, California, Food Safety News reported. Seven people in Minnesota and Virginia were infected with the bacteria.

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