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Salmonella Outbreak from Turtles

Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Small Turtles
September 7, 2012

Contact with reptiles (such as turtles, snakes, and lizards) and amphibians (such as frogs and toads) can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Salmonella germs are shed in the droppings of reptiles and amphibians and can easily contaminate their bodies and the water in tanks or aquariums where these animals live, which can spread to people.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches since 1975. However, small turtles continue to cause human Salmonella infections, especially among young children.
CDC is collaborating with public health officials in multiple states and the FDA to investigate 6 overlapping, multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to exposure to turtles or their environments (e.g., water from a turtle habitat). More than 160 illnesses have been reported from 30 states; 64 percent of ill persons are children age 10 or younger, and 27 percent of ill persons are children age  one year or younger. Fifty-six percent of ill persons are Hispanic. 
Key Messages
• Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores, or other sources.
• Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.
• Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.
ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.
For more information, contact CDC Media Relations at (404) 639-3286 or email

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