219 – mainly kids — sick in six Salmonella outbreaks linked to small turtles

Turtles traumatized me as a child; now they frighten me for food-safety-related reasons: they make little kids sick.

In the current outbreaks, 30 per cent of the confirmed sick are children 1 year of age or younger; that’s at least 66 infants barfing because their parents wanted them to hang out with small turtles.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is tracking six different outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to small turtles:

• a total of 219 persons infected with outbreak strains of Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona, and Salmonella Poona have been reported from 34 states;

• 36 ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported;

• 66% of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger, and 30% of ill persons are children 1 year of age or younger; and,

• 49% of ill persons are of Hispanic ethnicity.

Results of the epidemiologic and environmental investigations indicate exposure to turtles or their environments (e.g., water from a turtle habitat) is the cause of these outbreaks.

Small turtles are a well-known source of human Salmonella infections, especially among
young children. Because of this risk, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of these turtles as pets since 1975.

Turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.