The Connecticut Department of Health is warning Connecticut residents that small turtles can pass Salmonella bacteria to people.
The announcement comes in the midst of a nationwide outbreak linked to pet turtles that may be related to street vendors selling immature turtles. Although no cases have yet been identified in Connecticut, Dr. Randall Nelson, Public Health Veterinarian for the CT Department of Public Health, says that over 100 people in 27 states have become ill, with 60% of illness occurring in children under ten years old.
Dr. Nelson says that illness has been reported in much of the Northeast including, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and subsequent to identification of these cases, the Department of Public Health learned that street vendors in Connecticut have been identified as selling these very small turtles as pets contrary to state and federal law.
Nelson says young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems or underlying illnesses such as diabetes are at the greatest risk for infection.
Most typically, salmonella causes infections that carry symptoms of fever, diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, but in people prone to more serious forms of infection bacteria, can enter the bloodstream an cause infections to internal organs that might include the heart, kidneys, central nervous system…it can be the type of infection that is serious and requires hospitalization for treatment.
To own turtles safely, Dr. Nelson advises owners to wash their hands after handling turtles or the content of their tanks, keep them contained in their tanks, and clean the tank away from areas where food is prepared.
If you still want to own a turtle, Dr. Nelson says the most important part is getting the word out to the public that they should not buy small turtles sold on the street as pets for young children.