The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released statistics about an outbreak of salmonella poisoning in recent months.
Surprisingly, the figures indicate that of the 219 cases reported, 73% of those who fell ill have some exposure to turtles beforehand. Of these, 92% had been exposed to turtles with shells of less than 4 inches. So far 36 people have been hospitalized but no deaths have been reported. This report shows that salmonella poisoning isn’t always related to food safety incidents.
Small turtles have long been known to be a source of salmonella infection especially amongst young children. In 1975 the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale and distribution of these small turtles for this reason. CDC recommends that these tiny turtles are not purchased or given as gifts. In this most recent outbreak, 66% of the victims were under 10 years of age, and 30% were 1 year old or younger.
In Australia, certain breeds of turtles may be kept as pets but you do need to contact your local wildlife authority for a licence to do so. It’s important if you do have a pet turtle that you clean the tank and change the water regularly. And you must always wash your hands after handling these animals. Be particularly cautious if you have young children who are playing with these pets.