Stop kissing turtles: 100 US kids sickened in new Salmonella outbreak

Growing up in late-1960s suburbia, my parents thought dogs should run on farms like their dogs had, and cats were a nuisance.

So I had a turtle.

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?

Last week the U.K. noted an increase in reptile-related Salmonella cases. Today, media outlets are reporting,

A multi-state salmonella outbreak among people handling turtles, that includes California and Los Angeles County, was announced Tuesday by officials at the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health Veterinary Public Health.

Over 100 people, mostly children were infected by the same strain and 24 of them had to be hospitalized officials at the Center for Disease Control reported.

Eleven cases of the infection were reported in Southern California that included eight cases in Los Angeles County, officials at L.A. county Public Health reported.

Many human exposures were indirect. One baby became ill after being bathed in a sink where turtle feces had been discarded. Two girls fell ill after swimming in an un-chlorinated pool where turtles had been swimming.