In 2015, four separate multistate incidents of Salmonella outbreak were linked to exposure to a small turtle. A total of 124 people in 22 states were infected. The median patient age was 7 years old, minimum age of the patients was less than a year, and maximum age of infected was 82 years. 33 %of people with available information were hospitalized, and 70% with ethnicity information were Hispanic, while 40% were younger than 5 years old. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), released on 1st July, the salmonella outbreak was due to turtle whose shell length was less than four inches, bought from a flea market in Alabama.
Over the last 10 years, a large number of salmonella outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated food, live poultry and reptiles, including small turtles with a shell length of less than four inches. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale and distribution of small turtles in 1975, but flea markets and discount stores throughout the US continue to sell these animals.
A total of 104 patients or their caregivers were interviewed, where 50 patients had been exposed to turtles. A consumer safety official from the FDA investigated the flea market where the sale of the turtle was made, and concluded that it originated from Farm A, whose pond water samples showed traces of salmonella. Although the samples from turtle from Farm A did not yield the 2015 outbreak strains, two of the three salmonella pomona isolates from pond water matched isolates from a patient’s pet turtle’s environment.
Salmonella bacteria is found in many warm blooded animals worldwide and can cause a variety of health issues like gastroenteritis and typhoid fever. Since majority of the affected were kids and Hispanics, it is important that they be educated about the potential health risks from pets, especially small turtles and other reptiles. Moreover, important health information and safety measurements needs to be available in other languages as well.