CDC and multiple states are investigating a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet turtles.
Thirty-seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni have been reported from 13 states.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 1, 2017 to August 3, 2017
Of 33 people with available information, 16 have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Twelve (32%) ill people are children 5 years of age or younger.
Epidemiologic and laboratory findings link the outbreak of human Salmonella Agbeni infections to contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat.
In interviews, ill people answered questions about contact with animals during the week before becoming ill. Fifteen (45%) of the 33 people interviewed reported contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat, before getting sick.
In interviews with 9 ill people about where their turtles came from, 6 reported buying a turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or receiving the turtle as a gift.
In 2015, state and local health officials collected samples from turtles at a street vendor. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella Agbeni isolated from ill people in this outbreak is closely related genetically to the Salmonella Agbeni isolates from turtles. This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.
Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts.
All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy.
This outbreak is expected to continue since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles. If properly cared for, turtles have a long life expectancy.