Due to a national outbreak of salmonella illness linked to contact with turtles, the Washington State Department of Health is urging parents to teach kids how to safely handle turtles and other reptiles and amphibians.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating five multi-state outbreaks of salmonellosis linked to exposure to turtles. At least 124 people, including 19 who required hospitalization, have been affected. Washington is not among the 27 states with cases tied to the outbreak.
Snakes, lizards, frogs, and toads commonly carry Salmonella bacteria, even if the animals appear healthy. Their droppings can contain the bacteria, and people who handle the animals or touch their environments can be exposed.
The Health Department says young children are at highest risk for becoming ill because they’re less likely to wash their hands and they touch their mouths more often. Young children are also more likely to have more serious health consequences from salmonellosis. Turtles and amphibians should be kept out of homes, childcare settings, schools, and other places where there are children under 5 years old.
Both federal and state law ban the sale of small turtles with shells less than four inches long, and pet stores and other turtle vendors are required to give written information to buyers about disease risks. People who see small turtles for sale should not buy them, and should report such sales to the Department of Health at 877-485-7316.
Visit the Salmonella from Reptiles and Amphibians webpage has more information.