If you think it’s a good idea to put your mouth on a turtle, then you’re not alone. This is a safe space, turtle lickers, and we have some urgent news from you by way of the United States Centers for Disease Control: Please don’t put your mouth on a turtle — even a turtle whom you love dearly. On Tuesday, the CDC announced the findings of an investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella, which concluded that the outbreak was traced back to pet turtles.
CDC doctors traced 76 poisoning cases of Salmonella Agbeni to turtles or their habitats in 19 different U.S. states between March 1, 2017 and December 1, 2017. Agbeni is a different strain than the one that the CDC detected in kratom earlier this month.
In the turtle-related outbreak, 30 patients were hospitalized, but none died. About a third of the people who got sick were younger than 5 years old, which suggests that even though a turtle may seem like a safe, low-maintenance pet for a child, it’s probably not a good idea to give a very young child a turtle.
Interestingly, the report suggests that especially tiny turtles could be especially risky, as more than 60 percent of the patients reported contact with a turtle that’s shorter than four inches.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection, usually transmitted through food, that can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. It usually only lasts a few days and is not often life-threatening, except in cases of extreme dehydration due to diarrhea, as well as for babies, elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems.
About 1.2 million cases of Salmonella occur in the U.S. each year, and the CDC reports that they result in an average of 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths.
Even if you keep your turtle’s tank clean, it could still be carrying Salmonella, so take care to wash your hands after you touch your turtle, and make sure to supervise kids whenever they’re playing with turtles. And if you absolutely must kiss your turtle, wash your mouth well afterward.