An outbreak of i Salmonella /i linked to pet turtles has sickened 37 people in more than a dozen states, CDC reported Tuesday.
The CDC says the illnesses began to appear March 1 and diagnoses continued until August 3. Although no deaths have been recorded, at least 16 people have been hospitalized as a result of contracting the bacteria. Most people generally recover after five to seven days, but patients with weakened immune systems, young children or the elderly are particularly susceptible to more severe conditions.
According to CDC officials, there were epidemiologic and laboratory findings that linked "the human SalmonellaAgbeni infections to contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat".
Almost half of the 33 people that the CDC interviewed said they had come in contact with turtles or its environment, such as water from the turtle's habitat.
Some of those interviewed report buying a turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or getting the turtle as a gift.
The CDC recommends that people avoid purchasing a turtle with a shell length of less than four inches, as smaller turtles have been known to carry the disease.
The outbreak strain has been identified as Salmonella Agbeni. The average of age of those cases was 4, but the infections affected people from 1 to 94 years old.
"This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection", the CDC said.
Salmonella infection symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
The CDC advises against buying small turtles as pets or giving them as gifts.
CDC. Take care with pet reptiles and amphibians. "These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy", CDC said.
Heck, NPR reported about salmonella in pet turtles on the air way back in 1971.
This outbreak is expected to continue since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles.
Through genome sequencing of the Salmonella agbeni bacteria at the heart of this most recent outbreak, scientists have learned that the bacteria turtles harbor is very similar to the bacteria that sends humans running to the restroom or the hospital.