Sat. Feb 4th, 2023
CDC investigates rare salmonella outbreak in 13 states – linked to turtles

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday an investigation into an ongoing outbreak of a rare subtype of pneumonia Salmonella enterica linked to pet turtle exposure.

So far there has been an outbreak of 37 cases from Salmonella enterica serovar abenia infections in 13 states, hospitalizing 16 people. In total, 12 of the sick people are children five years old or younger, an age group particularly vulnerable to the bacteria. No deaths have been reported.

Using lab tests and epidemiological data, the CDC linked the outbreak to exposure to pet turtles or their habitats. The charmingly slow, half-shelled reptiles are known carriers of Salmonella. When infections jump to humans, they can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, and urinary tract infections. Young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable. For these reasons, the CDC has warned of the dangers of owning turtles as pets, especially small turtles that children love to hold, hug, and — in some cases — put in their mouths.

In 1975, the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of turtles with shells less than four inches long. The CDC estimates that the ban will prevent 100,000 cases Salmonella infections – salmonellosis – every year in American children.

Turtle power

But all turtles are at risk of molting Salmonella, which they naturally carry without showing any symptoms or signs of carriership. Even turtles that have tested negative in the past can still possess the bacteria and later spread it. The CDC estimates that turtles and other reptiles cause 74,000 cases of salmonellosis in the US each year.

Between January 2015 and April 2016, there were four outbreaks of salmonellosis in the US associated with pet turtles, with 133 becoming ill in 26 states. There were no deaths in those outbreaks, but that is not always the case. For example, in 2007, a four-week-old baby in Florida died of salmonellosis directly related to a small turtle.

The Salmonella subtype associated in this case is the rare one Salmonella Agbenia. It was isolated in the 1950s from the stool sample of a Nigerian child named Agbenia, who was suffering from diarrhea. Since then, it has appeared sparingly in case reports and outbreaks around the world. In June 2011 in particular, it caused a small eight-person outbreak, mostly among guests at a wedding. No specific source of the infection was ever identified and eating at the wedding was ruled out. Before that, there were only eight cases in all of Canada between 2000 and 2010.

To avoid getting such an infection from a pet turtle or other reptile, health experts say to remember they are cute but infected. Experts recommend washing hands and surfaces immediately after playing with a turtle and keeping them away from high-risk individuals, such as young children or those with compromised immune systems.

“Even if a small turtle doesn’t look sick, it can still carry salmonella, which can make young children sick. And unfortunately, children will unwittingly infect themselves,” Vic Boddie II, a consumer safety officer at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a safety announcement. “Children tend to put the little turtles in their mouths or play in the turtle enclosure and then put their fingers in their mouths. Also, reptile habitats are sometimes cleaned in the sink, which can contaminate food and eating utensils, posing a serious risk to both children and the elderly.”

The bacteria can survive on contaminated surfaces for long periods of time, the FDA warns, so cleaning up afterwards is “extremely important.”

By akfire1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.