On March 30, 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced an outbreak of Salmonella in small turtles that had sickened 66 people – mainly kids – across three states.
That initial outbreak has progressively grown to eight multistate outbreaks sickening at least 347 people with Salmonella Sandiego, Newport, Pomona, Poona, I 4,,12:i:-, and Typhimurium from 37 states and the District of Columbia in overlapping, multistate outbreaks linked to contact with small turtles and their habitats. Characteristics of the outbreaks are summarized below:
• 28% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported;
• 70% of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger, and 33% of ill persons are children 1 year of age or younger;
• 44% of ill persons are of Hispanic ethnicity;
• 70% of ill persons reported exposure to turtles prior to their illness;
• 90% of ill persons with turtle exposure specifically reported exposure to small turtles (shell length less than 4 inches); and,
• 33% of ill persons with small turtles reported purchasing the turtles from street vendors, and 11% reported purchasing small turtles from pet stores.
Small turtles are a well-known source of human Salmonella infections, especially among young children. Because of this risk, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of these turtles as pets since 1975. Turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.