Stop licking the turtles

A blogger writes,

"Apparently my favorite past-time of licking amphibians and reptiles is a health risk. Thus, it has to end."

Meanwhile, Dr. Raghavendra Rao writes that Jose, 16 months old, was brought to a health clinic by his mother. He had painful mucous stools and cried with each bowel movement.

The stool culture report eventually came back; it grew Salmonella group C2.

Having known that this infection usually comes from animals, I inquired the mother whether she had any pets at home. “No dogs or cats,” she said, “but my other son has a small turtle. He plays with it, takes it out of water and puts it back.”

“Give the turtle away,” I advised the mother.

When I was growing up, turtles were inexpensive, popular, and low maintenance, with an array of groovy pre-molded plastic housing designs to choose from. Invariably they would escape, only to be found days later behind the couch along with the skeleton of the class bunny my younger sister brought home from kindergarten one weekend.

But eventually, replacement turtles became harder to come by. Reports started surfacing that people with pet turtles were getting sick. In 1975, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned commercial distribution of turtles less than 4 inches in length, and it has been estimated that the FDA ban prevents some 100,000 cases of salmonellosis among children each year. Maybe I got sick from my turtle.

Maybe I picked up my turtle, rolled around on the carpet with it, pet it a bit, and then stuck my finger in my mouth. Maybe in my emotionally vacant adolescence I kissed my turtle. Who can remember?

I stopped too.