It is relatively easy to get a hold of the small reptilian in order to house it in an aquarium at home, even if they have been banned from commercialization since 1975. With the recent study that shows how pet turtles were linked to US’ salmonella outbreak, the trend of owning a small pet turtle may not be around for much longer.
Salmonella is a bacteria that causes food poisoning, with symptoms like severe nausea and intense vomiting. A certain type of salmonella can even lead to typhoid fever which usually leads to septic or hypovolemic shock, with extreme episodes of vomiting and diarrhea.
The World Health Organization released numbers showing that across the globe, over 21 million cases of typhoid fever caused by salmonella were reported in 2000, with 10% of them resulting in the death of the patients. But these numbers have lowered considerably, with only 50.000 food poisoning cases from salmonella infection being reported annually.
This bacteria is commonly found in tomatoes, chicken, and peanuts while its most beneficial environment is located in the intestine region of humans and animals. In regards to turtles, almost all of them can potentially carry the bacteria. In order for a human to get contaminated, direct touch is not required.
Cross-contamination is the most prevalent way of being infected with the bacteria. By analyzing the amount of people showing symptoms of salmonella infection, 68% claimed that they had been recently in contact with a pet turtle. 88% of this group have also added that the turtle in question was a small one, with the shell diameter below 4 inches.
Because their commercialization has been banned for almost 40 years, the general public may no longer have the knowledge regarding the health risks posed by owning a reptile or amphibian. Most small turtle owners that have the highest vulnerability towards infection are children of or under the age of 5, due to their weak immune systems. This is why the CDC urges people to wash their hands with antibacterial soap after handling reptile pets, and in the case of your children, turtles should be completely out of the question.
Over 275.000 cases of salmonella in young children from turtle contact were reported in 1974, eventually leading to their complete ban. The CDC currently considers teaching people once again the risk of having such pets, taking into account that only 15% of questioned citizens knew that reptiles are directly linked to the spread of salmonella.
In recent months, 5 pet stores from Florida were classified as having the bacteria, all of them selling small turtles. These reptiles were bought from two separate Louisiana turtle farms, urging the local law enforcement to shut down these businesses and fine them accordingly.
Although pet turtles were linked to US’ salmonella outbreak, this formerly common knowledge is no longer as widespread as it once was. The general public, as well as school faculties and pet shop owners, need to be reminded once again the dangers posed by small turtles in order for salmonella outbreaks to no longer occur.