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Alert! Small Turtles are Causing Salmonella Outbreak

May 20, 2016 03:38 AM EDT
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Small turtles may look too adorable, but these animals have been the culprits in recent outbreaks of salmonella, the U.S. federal officials warns.

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), epidemiological and laboratory tests have confirmed that the outbreaks were linked to touching small turtles about four inches long or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat.

A total of 133 people in 26 states in the U.S. were infected between January 2015 and April 2016, although no deaths have been reported. About 41% of those infected were children between ages five and younger.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in their website: "Initial investigations have identified four turtle farms in Louisiana as potential sources of the turtles linked to these 2015 outbreaks. Pond water testing from the four farms resulted in identification of additional non-outbreak Salmonella isolates."

The turtles are said to carry the bacteria on their skins and shells. Children would get infected by touching a turtle or its habitat and putting their hands in their mouths without washing.

The symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. These symptoms manifest about 12 to 72 hours following exposure to the bacteria. However, most people feel better in four to seven days.

Children who are under the age of five, adults over 65 and people with weak immune systems are most at risk of developing severe salmonella infection.

"The outbreak is expected to continue at a low level for the next several months since people might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles," CDC said in the report. Health officials also warn that all turtles, regardless of size or whether they appear healthy or clean, can carry the bacteria.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale and distribution of these animals in 1975 due to risks of salmonella.

The WHO suggested that these salmonella-carrying turtles may have been exported from other countries, and recommend countries that import pet reptiles and amphibians to be keen on checking for infected animals.

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