Turtles connected to salmonellosis outbreak

Published on April 15, 2008
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Investigations are ongoing into a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella infections associated with exposure to small turtles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health departments are trying to determine whether the turtles involved in this 2007-2008 outbreak have a common distributor or farm of origin.

Many of the turtles were purchased at pet stores, flea markets, and other outlets, despite a federal prohibition on the sale of turtles with carapace lengths of less than 4 inches, stated a January 25 report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

According to the report, the North Carolina Division of Public Health notified the CDC in October 2007 about human infections in several states that were caused by a particular strain of Salmonella. Onset of the first reported illness occurred May 4, 2007. Many of the infections occurred in young children and were associated with exposure to small turtles.

As of Jan. 18, 2008, a total of 103 cases with isolates indistinguishable from the strain had been reported to the CDC from 33 states.

Turtles and other reptiles have long been recognized as a source of human Salmonella infections. Prohibiting the sale and distribution of small turtles likely remains the most effective public health action to prevent turtle-associated salmonellosis, the report stated.

For a copy of the MMWR, visit www.cdc.gov/mmwr/weekcvol.html and click on "Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Infections Associated with Exposure to Turtles—United States, 2007-2008."