Pa., NJ among 13 states hit by illness linked to pet turtles

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The health dangers from turtles are so serious that federal law prohibits selling or distributing turtles with a shell length less than four inches.

An outbreak of i Salmonella /i linked to pet turtles has sickened 37 people in more than a dozen states, CDC reported Tuesday.

The agency said that the illnesses started to appear on March 1, and the diagnoses continued until August 3.

The mini reptiles have caused 37 people across 13 states to be infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni since March. At least 16 people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.

Thirty-two percent of the people who were infected were children 5 or younger. According to the CDC, all turtles, regardless of size, can carry salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean.

In Illinois, four people have been diagnosed with the disease after either handling pet turtles or after coming into contact with the turtles' habitat, the CDC says.

In interviews with nine ill people about where their turtles came from, six reported buying a turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or receiving the turtle as a gift.

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The CDC sequenced the genome of the salmonella bacteria found on turtles collected at a local street vendor and the salmonella found in the sick people, and found that they were closely related.

CDC. Multistate outbreak of SalmonellaAgbeni infections linked to pet turtles, 2017.

Salmonella infections can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea and blood in the stool.

The agency advises against buying small turtles or giving them as gifts.

Keep turtles out of homes with children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years, or people with weakened immune systems.

Pet turtles are at the center of a multi-state salmonella outbreak, the CDC stated. "This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection", the CDC reported on its website. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy. Most people feel better between five and seven days of being sick. The agency said it expected the outbreak to continue because customers might not be aware of the risk of Salmonella from small turtles.

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