Tiny turtles are salmonella reservoirs despite being cute companions that make great pets or subjects in science class. It’s high time we remembered why selling tiny turtles was prohibited in the U.S four decades ago.
The guts of tiny turtles are perfect spots for salmonella breeding. The bacterium causes an illness that is more commonly known nowadays to be linked to chicken and chicken meat-based products. However, salmonella bacterium is bore by more than just chicken.
According to a recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, salmonella outbreaks linked to the tiny turtles are back. The CDC report took a closer look at salmonella infections between May 2011 and September 2013 and found that turtle-associated salmonella can be linked to eight salmonella outbreaks in 41 states.
In this timeframe, 473 people fell ill due to turtle-associated salmonella. Four decades ago, the number of illnesses traced to turtle-associated salmonella was as high as 280,000 yearly. Thus the FDA banned the selling of tiny turtles as pets. Tiny means the turtles should have shells above four inches long to qualify as pet material.
There is still a large problem with hygiene rules when it comes to dealing with the reptiles or amphibians found as good candidate pets. Thus, salmonella bacterium residing in their guts can easily infect people. Children are particularly at risk due to prolonged exposure to their tiny turtles kept as pets.
As for hygiene rules when handling the turtle pets, special attention should be devoted to the water they swim in or their tanks. During the recently found turtle-associated salmonella outbreaks, only 15 percent of the patients who fell ill were aware that their turtles could be the origin. Children, the majority of the infected patients, were most unaware of the association.
Tiny turtles are salmonella reservoirs despite being cute. So cute that some of the children reported kissing them or trying to fit them in their mouths. Obviously this increased the risk of infection with salmonella bacterium. However, even coming in contact with water from the turtle’s tank or while cleaning the tank or any other surface where the tiny turtles are free to roam increases the risk of infection.
With this in mind, think twice next time you’re pondering purchasing a tiny turtles from street vendors unauthorized for the sales. These are usually outside of the FDA’s regulatory reach and hard to contain as a phenomenon. For instance, the CDC report traced one of the turtle-associated salmonella outbreaks to a souvenir shop of Florida where the tiny turtles were sold.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia