In 1975, these popular red-eared slider turtles were banned from being sold in the US because they shed salmonella. Even with the ban in place, these small turtles are still being sold at flea markets and pet shops today. And children are still contracting salmonella from these small pet turtles.
In February, a three-week-old infant died from salmonella poisoning after coming into contact with one of these pet turtles. According to a report in the CDC Journal, 19 other people across from 11 states have become sick with the same salmonella strain after being in contact with these small turtles.
Reptiles and amphibians, including turtles, account for about 6% of all salmonella cases and 11% of cases for those under 21.
Most turtles do carry the dangerous bacteria, the agency notes, and humans typically come into contact with the bug from contact with the animal’s feces. In addition, the water in turtle bowls or aquariums can also be contaminated with the bacterium. All turtles, regardless of size, should be handled as though they are infected, the CDC warns.
“Reptiles and amphibians should be kept out of households with children less than five years of age,” Sotir said. “All persons who handle reptiles and amphibians should use hand washing and other hygiene techniques to keep clean after handling them,” he added.
” Salmonella in turtles has been a long-standing problem,” added Dr. Pascal James Imperato, chair of the department of preventive medicine and community health at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center in New York City. “Children have a propensity to put their fingers in their mouth, and so Salmonella is rather easily transmitted. Moreover, turtles are kept in water that is contaminated, and the children touch the water and become infected,” he said.
“These are really not pets that young children should have,” said Imperato, who strongly advised that parents not purchase turtles for young children, “who would not understand the need to wash their hands after touching either the turtle or the terrarium.”