CDC: Add turtles to the list of critters you shouldn’t be kissing

Turtles - What you need to know

At least one person has died from salmonella outbreak linked to pet turtles

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a salmonella outbreak that has put eight people in the hospital and left at least one dead.

The outbreak has been linked to turtles, adding another creature to the CDC’s list of animals you shouldn’t be kissing or cuddling with. In January 2019, people in 11 states were infected with salmonella from their pet hedgehogs. Later that year, the CDC said people in 48 states had been infected by their backyard chickens and ducks.

ExploreTwo now dead from salmonella infection caused by backyard poultry

Althought this outbreak is smaller — 22 people in seven states, as of February — it has already caused one death in Pennsylvania.

“The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” the CDC wrote. “This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.”

Those who have become sick range in age from less than a year old to 59, with a median age of 6.

CDC’s advice for turtle owners:

Wash your hands

Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding or caring for turtles or cleaning their habitats. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children. Most people sick in this outbreak are children.

Play safely

» Don’t kiss or snuggle turtles, and don’t eat or drink around them. This can spread salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick.

» Keep your turtle out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat, store, or prepare food.

ExploreMore people infected with Salmonella from pet hedgehogs, CDC warns

Keep things clean

» Clean all of your turtle supplies outside the house, if possible, including tanks, toys and feeders.

» If you clean the supplies indoors, don’t clean them in the kitchen or other areas where you eat or prepare food. Use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area right after.

If you are thinking of getting a pet turtle:

» Do not buy small turtles with shells less than 4 inches long.

» The U.S. Food and Drug Administration bans the sale and distribution of these turtles. These turtles can sometimes be found illegally at stores, flea markets and roadside stands.

» All sick people in this outbreak with information available had contact with a small turtle before they got sick, even with their sale being illegal.

» Purchase or adopt pet turtles from reputable pet stores or pet rescues.

Pick the right pet for your family

Pet turtles are not recommended for households with children younger than 5, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems. These people are at greater risk for serious illness. If your household includes these people, you should consider picking a different pet for your family.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these severe salmonella symptoms:

» Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 degrees

» Diarrhea for more than three days that is not improving

» Bloody diarrhea

» So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down

» Signs of dehydration, such as: not urinating (peeing) much; dry mouth and throat; feeling dizzy when standing up

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