Turtles have been quite widely kept as pets in many countries. But hardly a person thinks about danger lurking in them. People’s ignorance caused the largest Salmonella outbreak (since August) ever linked to pet turtles.
103 people – mostly kids – were hospitalized in 33 states. The most common symptoms were bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, and vomiting. Fortunately, no one has died.
The patients recalled contact with a turtle - feeding, kissing, or playing with a turtle. The CDC is investigating whether the outbreak can be traced to a common turtle distributor or farm.
There are health concerns that should be known when considering a turtle for a pet. Any reptile can carry the salmonella bacteria. Turtles can carry this bacteria in their digestive system without becoming sick and can shed it periodically. People can become sick if they do not thoroughly wash their hands after handling turtles or any equipment used with them. Children and those with impaired immune systems are the ones that usually suffer the most when exposed. Death has been known to occur.
Due to unsupervised children putting small turtles into their mouths, the FDA made a regulation in 1975 to discontinue the sale of turtles under 4 inches. It is illegal in every state in the U.S. for anyone to sell any turtles under 4 inches long. Although, many stores and flea markets still sell small turtles due to a loophole in the FDA regulation. This loophole allows turtles under 4 inches to be sold for "educational" purposes. Many sellers will sell small turtles posting a sign that they are for educational purposes but then sell to anyone who wants one.