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Tiny Turtle Salmonella Outbreaks Expand

A series of 6 Salmonella outbreaks linked to contact with small turtles is now affecting 168 people from 30 states. That’s up from the 149 illnesses reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its last update July 3.

The 19 new cases have been connected with 4 of the 6 outbreak strains tied to these reptiles, including Salmonella Sandiego, strain A; Salmonella Pomona; Salmonella Poona, strain A and Salmonella Pomona, strain B. No new cases of Salmonella Sandiego, strain B or Salmonella Poona, strain B have been detected according to the CDC update issued Wednesday.

A total of 34 people have been hospitalized.

The first illnesses linked to these outbreaks began in June of 2011. New cases were still being reported as recently as mid-July. Due to the time it takes for illnesses to be reported to CDC, more recent illnesses may not have been counted yet.

The latest total number of victims for the outbreaks that have new case counts are as follows:

Salmonella Sandiego, Strain A

A total of 70 people, up from 62 at last count, have been infected with Salmonella Sandiego, strain A and Salmonella Newport, strain A. The one case of Salmonella Newport was reported in the CDC’s last update and, while it is a separate strain, is still thought to be part of this outbreak.

The 8 individuals whose illnesses were reported since the last update come from California (2), Illinois (1), Massachusetts (2), Nevada (1), Pennsylvania (1) and Texas (1).

Of those infected, 12 have been hospitalized. No deaths have occurred.

Victims range in age from less than 1 year to 86 years old, with a median age of 8. Fifty-seven percent of those who have been infected are female.

Illnesses in this outbreak began August 3, 2011, and the most recent case began July 9, 2012. Illnesses reported after June 9, 2012 might not have been reported yet.

Salmonella Pomona, Strain A

Salmonella Pomona, strain A linked to contact with small turtles has sickened 15 individuals. This includes 4 new cases in the following states: California (1), Nevada (1), Pennsylvania (1) and Virginia (1).

Of the 15 victims, 4 have been hospitalized. Ill individuals range in age from less than 1 year old to 90 years old, with a median age of 16. Sixty-seven percent of victims are female.

Illness onsets range from December 9, 2011 to July 16, 2012. Illnesses reported after June 28, 2012 may not yet have been counted.

Salmonella Poona, Strain A

The total number of individuals infected with Salmonella Poona, strain A has risen from 17 to 21. The 4 new illnesses are in Louisiana (1), Mississippi (1) and Tennessee (2).

The median age of these victims is 3 years old, the youngest being less than 1 year old and the oldest being 70. Seventy percent of patients are female.

Illnesses linked to this strain began as early as October 20, 2011 and continued to occur through July 2, 2012. Cases with an onset date of June 9, 2012 or later may not yet have been reported.

Salmonella Pomona, Strain B

A total of 50 people, up from 47 as last reported by CDC, have been sickened with Salmonella Pomona, strain B infections linked to contact with small turtles since June 21, 2011. The latest illness linked to this outbreak began July 11, 2012.

The 3 new illnesses occurred in Illinois (1), New Mexico (1) and Texas (1).

Of the 50 outbreak victims, 25 are female. Those sickened range in age from less than 1 to 86, with a median age of 2.

Risk of Infection from Small Turtles

Small turtles – defined as those with a shell length of less than 4 inches – are a known source of Salmonella bacteria, according to CDC. The bacteria is shed in the feces of these reptiles and can contaminate their habitat and anything with which they come into contact.

Because of this danger, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of these turtles since 1975.

Other reptiles and amphibians such as frogs and toads can also be sources of Salmonella bacteria.

Small children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to serious Salmonella infection.

For more information about the 6 outbreaks linked to contact with small turtles, please see the  Food Safety News’ previous update: More Salmonella Cases Linked to Small Turtles.

© Food Safety News
  • husna aijaz

    If the sale of the turtles is banned, then how come parents can still buy these turtles for their children? Perhaps an article in the local newspapers will increase awareness among adults about the hazards of having reptiles as pets!

  • Elivaa

    The “tiny-turtle” ban has always erked me; not that I ever wanted a little bitty turtle. But why not an educational campaign at pet stores rather than outright banning sales?