Turtles and Salmonella
3:05 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

Salmonella-laden turtles infecting humans: is Missouri next?

Ok, we realize the headline is a little alarmist - but the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually suggests it's not that far-fetched.

Check out the map above. Generally, the cases are spreading in, from the coasts, and Illinois has had two new cases over the month of July, give or take a few days. 

The CDC says the latest cases are part of a recent string of six multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to turtles .

(Before we go any further, did you know turtles are common vehicles for Salmonella infections of humans? Neither did I until today).

Here are a couple of other interesting facts regarding this latest outbreak of turtle-transmitted human Salmonella cases via the CDC:

  • There have been 168 reported cases so far in the US in 30 states.
  • Of those 168 cases, 34 have included hospitalization. No one has died.
  • 64 percent of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger, and 27 percent of ill persons are children 1 year old or younger.
  • 56 percent of ill persons are of Hispanic ethnicity. Information about the association between reptiles and Salmonella is now available in Spanish.
  • 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.
  • 72 percent of ill persons reported exposure to turtles prior to their illness.
  • 94 percent of ill persons with turtle exposure specifically reported exposure to small turtles (shell length less than 4 inches).
  • 39 percent of ill persons with small turtles reported purchasing the turtles from street vendors, and 15 percent reported purchasing small turtles from pet stores.

Even though it was news to this reporter today, the CDC says "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."

Stuck with a turtle you suspect could infect you? Here's some advice from the CDC about your options.

Here's even more information in a video from the FDA from 2009:

Follow Kelsey Proud on Twitter: @KelseyProud