The CDC reported that it is collaborating with Pennsylvania health officials on an investigation of Salmonella infections associated with pet turtles. The strain of bacteria involved goes by the catchy name of “Salmonella enterica serotype Paratyphi B var. L (+) tartrate +”
The report states:
During August 5, 2010–September 26, 2011, a total of 132 cases of human Salmonella Paratyphi B var. L (+) tartrate + infection were reported in 18 states. The median age of patients was 6 years (range: <1–75 years), 66% were aged <10 years, and 63% were female. No deaths were reported. Of the 56 patients interviewed, 36 (64%) reported turtle exposure. For 15 patients who could recall the type of turtle contacted, 14 identified turtles too small to be legally traded. Five samples of turtle tank water from patient homes tested positive for the outbreak strain (four from Pennsylvania and one from South Carolina). Investigation to trace the source of these turtles is difficult because the vendors are transient. These cases illustrate that small turtles remain a source of human Salmonella infections, especially for young children.
Outbreaks of Salmonella linked to turtles are not new. In 2008, 135 people in 25 states were sickened in a an outbreak of Salmonella linked to turtles by the CDC. As a result, the sale or distribution of small turtles (those with carapace lengths <4 inches ) has been prohibited in the United States since 1975. Still, they appear to remain available for illegal purchase through transient vendors on the street, at flea markets, and at fairs.