Header graphic for print
Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Banned Turtles Sicken 248 with Salmonella

The CDC reports a total of 248 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona, and Salmonella Poona have been reported from 34 states.

  • 28% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
  • 68% of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger, and 33% of ill persons are children 1 year of age or younger.
  • 49% of ill persons are of Hispanic ethnicity. Information about the association between reptiles and Salmonella is now available in Spanish.

Results of the epidemiologic and environmental investigations indicate exposure to turtles or their environments (e.g., water from a turtle habitat) is the cause of these outbreaks.

  • 72% of ill persons reported exposure to turtles prior to their illness.
  • 89% of ill persons with turtle exposure specifically reported exposure to small turtles (shell length less than 4 inches).
  • 34% of ill persons with small turtles reported purchasing the turtles from street vendors, and 17% 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.