Pet Turtles Linked To Salmonella Outbreak Putting Human Safety At Risk

Pet Turtles Linked To Salmonella Outbreak Putting Human Safety At Risk


A salmonella outbreak spanning 11 states has recently been attributed to pet turtles. This news, shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlights the importance of responsible pet ownership and sheds light on the potential risks associated with these reptiles.

Wash hands thoroughly after handling turtles. Photo: Pexels
Wash hands thoroughly after handling turtles.

A Spreading Threat

The outbreak has left 26 people infected with the salmonella bacteria across various states including California, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. Of these cases, nine individuals have required hospitalization due to the severity of their symptoms, the New York Times reports. The outbreak timeline ranges from October 2022 to as recently as July this year, indicating an ongoing and concerning public health issue.

The CDC acknowledges that the actual number of affected individuals might surpass the reported cases. Many people who contract salmonella might recover without medical attention and hence go untested.

Keep food and beverages away from turtle areas. Photo: Pexels
Keep food and beverages away from turtle areas.

A Hidden Carrier

Pet turtles, irrespective of their size, can carry salmonella germs in their droppings, even if they appear healthy and clean, the CDC reports. These germs can readily spread to their bodies, tank water, and their immediate environment.

"The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and this outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses," the CDC warns. "This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella."

Individuals with weak immune systems should also avoid high-risk turtles. Photo: Pexels
Individuals with weak immune systems should also avoid high-risk turtles.

Recognizing Symptoms and Safety Measures

Salmonella infection manifests in various ways, including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and stomach cramps, the Mayo Clinic reports. These symptoms can significantly impact an individual's well-being and quality of life.

As responsible pet owners, it is essential to understand the dos and don'ts of owning a pet turtle to mitigate risks:


  • Wash Hands Thoroughly: Always wash your hands after handling a turtle or touching its habitat. This simple step can prevent the potential transmission of harmful bacteria to you and your surroundings.
  • Hygiene Around Turtles: Refrain from kissing or cuddling your turtle. Also, avoid handling food and beverages in proximity to your pet.
  • Designated Cleaning: When cleaning your pet's items, use a specially designated basin and sponge. If you opt to clean their belongings in a bathtub or sink, ensure proper disinfection afterward.


  • Avoid Handling High-Risk Turtles: Turtles with shells smaller than four inches wide should not be kept as pets, especially for children under five, adults over 65, and individuals with weakened immune systems. These individuals are more susceptible to salmonella-related infections.
  • Releasing Turtles into the Wild: If you no longer wish to keep your turtle, avoid releasing it into the wild. Instead, reach out to local reptile rescues, pet stores, or shelters to discuss responsible rehoming options.
Educate family members about responsible handling of pet turtles. Photo: Pexels
Educate family members about responsible handling of pet turtles.

A Safer Future for Turtles and Humans

As much as we treasure our connection with these enchanting reptiles, it's imperative to prioritize their well-being and the safety of those around them. By following the guidelines provided by health authorities and exercising responsible practices, we can ensure a harmonious coexistence with our pet turtles while safeguarding our own health.

Remember that our collective actions shape the well-being of both humans and animals. By staying informed, adopting responsible practices, and advocating for the welfare of our pets, we can forge a future where pets enrich our lives without compromising our health and safety.

Let's respond with vigilance, compassion, and a commitment to creating a safer and healthier environment for all living beings we share our world with.

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Matthew Russell

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.

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