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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Illegal Turtles Sicken 391 with Salmonella

A total of 391 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 40 states and the District of Columbia.

  • 29% of ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
  • 71% of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger, and 33% of ill persons are children 1 year of age or younger.
  • 45% of ill persons are of Hispanic ethnicity. Information about the association between reptiles and Salmonella is 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.

  • 70% 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).
  • 30% of ill persons with small turtles reported purchasing the turtles from street vendors, and 13% reported purchasing small turtles from pet stores.

Four of the outbreaks remain under active investigation. However, turtles are an important cause of human Salmonella infections in the United States.

More information about Salmonella from reptiles and amphibians, and the steps people can take to reduce their risk of infection, is available.

The Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size as pets since 1975. These small turtles should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts.