Ok, so I've wanted a turtle for some time now. But Mrs. Pet Haven always cautioned me that you could get diseases from turtles. I never really knew if she was making that up, but as it turns out, she's right. According to a recent report, contact with small pet turtles was to blame for 103 Salmonella infections that occurred in 33 states between May and December 2007, according to federal health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.
Salmonella infections can be severe, leading to hospitalization and, in some cases, death, the CDC notes.
Turtles and other reptiles are well-known reservoirs for Salmonella and while the sale and distribution of small turtles — measuring less than 4 inches — was officially outlawed in the U.S. in 1975, cases of turtle-associated Salmonella infection continue to occur.
Roughly half of the Salmonella infections documented in the 2007 outbreak occurred in young children, who are at greater risk for severe illness from Salmonella infection.
The CDC's investigation into the outbreak also revealed that in a subset of 60 infected individuals interviewed, only one fifth were aware of the link between Salmonella infection and contact with reptiles.
According to the CDC, direct or indirect contact with reptiles causes an estimated 6 percent of all human Salmonella infections in the U.S. People who come in contact with reptiles, reptile habitats, or surfaces contaminated with reptile feces need to remember that they risk Salmonella infection, CDC officials caution.