Is a turtle the right pet for your family?
Did you know that the sale of turtles less than 4 inches has been banned in the United States since 1975? This is because turtles pose a high risk of spreading disease, especially to children. The ban by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prevented an estimated 100,000 cases of salmonellosis annually in children. This ban prohibiting the sale of small turtles likely remains the most effective public health action to prevent turtle-associated
the health risk, turtles have become very popular pets in recent years.
Their slow movements and tough colorful shells may make them seem like
the perfect family pet. However, turtles carry potentially dangerous
bacteria called Salmonella.
you can’t see the bacteria doesn’t mean they aren’t
there. Salmonella are naturally occurring bacteria in turtles
and those with Salmonella usually do not appear sick in any
way. In addition, turtles do not shed Salmonella all of the
time. So, just because a turtle might have one negative test for Salmonella doesn’t mean that they are not infected. It could mean that the
turtle was not shedding Salmonella on the day it was tested.
Salmonella bacteria cause a human disease called salmonellosis. Reptiles, including
turtles, transmit an estimated 74,000 cases of salmonellosis to people
in the United States annually. Amphibians, including frogs, toads, newts,
and salamanders, can also transmit salmonellosis. Some cases may cause
severe illness, hospitalization and even death in susceptible people
such as children under 5, the elderly, and people who have lowered natural
resistance to disease due to pregnancy, cancer, chemotherapy, organ
transplants, diabetes, liver problems or other diseases.
have been a number of turtle-associated salmonellosis cases recently
in the United States , , .
can be done to prevent turtle-associated salmonellosis?
not have a turtle in any household that includes children
under 5, the elderly, or people who have lowered natural resistance
to disease due to pregnancy, cancer, chemotherapy, organ transplants,
diabetes, liver problems or other diseases. A family expecting a
child should remove any pet reptile or amphibian from the home before
the infant arrives.
turtles are cute, but contaminated. Handle all turtles
and surfaces that have come in contact with turtles as if they are
contaminated with Salmonella, because there is a good possibility
that they are.
hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately
after handling turtles or their cages, or after contact with pet
feces. Do not touch your face, other people or any surface until
hands are washed.
surfaces that the turtle or its cage has come in contact
the turtle from possible contact with food:
- Do not allow turtles to roam freely about a home or living area,
and especially do not allow them in food preparation areas.
sinks should not be used to bathe turtles or to wash their dishes,
cages, or aquariums.
bathtubs are used for these purposes, they should be cleaned
thoroughly and disinfected with bleach.
the turtle from contact with high-risk individuals:
- Don't handle a turtle and an infant (e.g., feed, change diaper)
at the same time.
hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling an infant
or preparing a baby bottle.
at increased risk for infection or serious complications from
salmonellosis (e.g., children under 5, the elderly, or people
who have lowered natural resistance to disease due to pregnancy,
cancer, chemotherapy, organ transplants, diabetes, liver problems
or other diseases) should avoid contact with reptiles and amphibians
and any items that have been in contact with them.
should not be allowed in childcare centers or nursing homes.
in public settings (e.g., zoos and exhibits) should be kept from
direct or indirect contact with patrons except in designated animal-contact
areas equipped with adequate hand-washing facilities.
- Food and drink should not be allowed in animal contact areas.
information about reptiles, salmonellosis, or other pet-related health
questions, visit the CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website,
Associated with Pet Turtles --- Wisconsin and Wyoming, 2004, Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Report, March 11, 2005 / 54(09);223-226, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5409a3.htm
for Disease Control and Prevention. Reptile-associated salmonellosis—selected
states, 1998-2002. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2003;52:1206-1209.
SY, Rocourt JR, Shiferaw B, Kassenborg HD, Segler SD, Marcus R, Daily
PJ, Hardnett FP, and Slutsker L. PDF 124 KB Breast-Feeding
Decreases the Risk of Sporadic Salmonellosis among Infants in FoodNet
Sites Clinical Infectious Diseases
 Turtle-Associated Salmonellosis in Humans --- United States, 2006--2007. MMWR Weekly July 6, 2007 / 56(26);649-652.
"Everyone's pet is the most outstanding. This begets mutual blindness."