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Michigan warns of salmonella risk associated with small turtles

Although the  multistate outbreaks of salmonella associated with small turtles was declared over last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Michigan Departments of Community Health (MDCH) are advising the public about this risk, particularly to young children.

Michigan recorded five cases during the past 18 months and they remind people:

Many people don’t know that turtles, other pet reptiles (such as snakes and lizards), and amphibians (such as frogs and toads) can carry Salmonella bacteria and be a source of human infection.  Salmonella can survive on hands, clothing, cages, equipment, floors and other surfaces that an infected animal has touched, so a person can also be exposed to the bacteria by contact with these objects.

The 18 month nationwide outbreak sickened 473 people from 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

“Many people don't know that turtles and other reptiles can carry harmful germs that can make people very sick. For this reason, turtles and other reptiles might not be the best pets for your family, especially if there are children 5-years-old and younger or people with weakened immune systems living in your home.”  -Casey Barton Behravesh DVM, DrPH, Deputy Branch Chief, Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Image/CDC

“Many people don’t know that turtles and other reptiles can carry harmful germs that can make people very sick. For this reason, turtles and other reptiles might not be the best pets for your family, especially if there are children 5-years-old and younger or people with weakened immune systems living in your home.”
-Casey Barton Behravesh DVM, DrPH, Deputy Branch Chief, Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Image/CDC

“Since 1975, it has been illegal in the United States to sell or distribute small turtles with shells that measure less than four inches in length.  Sales of small turtles are only allowed for very specific purposes, such as genuine education or research,” said Dr. James Averill, State Veterinarian at the MDARD.  “They are not to be sold as pets.  In Michigan, purchasers must also be provided with a Turtle Advisory Sheet by the pet store or other supplier.”

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The Michigan Departments of Community Health offers the following advise to residents to avoid Salmonella infection:

  • Don’t buy small turtles (shell length less than four inches) from pet stores, websites, street vendors, swap meets, or other sources.
  • Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.
  • Avoid letting reptiles roam indoors and keep them away from food preparation or eating areas.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live.  Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.  Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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