Champaign-Urbana Public Health District

Small Turtles Can Cause Life-Threatening Disease

Wednesday - May 01, 2013

Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Urges People Not To Purchase Small Turtles

Champaign, IL - The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District urges people not to purchase turtles with shells of less than 4 inches. With exotic pets becoming more popular, it is important to know how to stay safe and healthy. Reptiles and amphibians often carry Salmonella on their skin and shells. The bacteria do not make them sick, but can make people very sick. Small turtles are a significant source of Salmonellosis - Salmonella infections. There have been eight multi-state outbreaks of Salmonella linked to small turtles since 2011.

Salmonella infections are specifically linked to small turtles because of those who are at risk for infections. For most healthy adults, Salmonellosis causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps that can last from four to seven days and resolves without treatment. Serious cases of Salmonellosis require hospitalization and can be life-threatening unless treated promptly. Symptoms generally appear within six to 72 hours of contact. People considered to be high-risk are infants, young children, the elderly and anyone with impaired immune systems. Infants and young children often put the small turtles in their mouth or put their fingers in the tank water and then into their mouth causing contamination. This was the reason for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the sale of all turtles and tortoises with a shell length of less than 4 inches.

Read the full press relase. (PDF)