August 06, 2015
1 min read

Pet turtles cause Salmonella Poona outbreak

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A 2014 multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Poona infections, originated from illegally distributed pet turtles, resulted in multiple hospitalizations, according to a report in MMWR.

This rare serotype has been identified in multiple Salmonella outbreaks associated with pet turtle exposure and has posed a particular risk to small children,” Colin Basler, DVM, of the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the CDC, and colleagues wrote. “Although the sale and distribution of small turtles is prohibited by federal law, they are still available for … illegal purchase through transient street vendors, at flea markets, and at fairs.”

The outbreak occurred between April 26 and Sept. 22, 2014, after 40 adults and children from 12 states were infected with human Salmonella Poona, strain JL6X01.0055. Patients were aged younger than 1 year to 75 years.

Hospitalization and contact information was available for 28 of the infected patients, and 13 reported recent exposure to turtles. Illegal turtles were reported by three of the infected patients, leading investigators to the origin of the outbreak strain, a pet turtle in California. The turtles reportedly were obtained from carnival and fair vendors, making it difficult to trace all cases of infection to a specific source.

Because 40% of the infected patients were aged younger than 1 year, the researchers said they were unlikely to be in direct contact with the pet turtles. This indicated that the turtles were a significant risk for indirect, easily transmittable Salmonella.

“Educational campaigns directed toward parents of young children, in conjunction with the federal turtle ban, might help to prevent future turtle-associated salmonellosis outbreaks,” Basler and colleagues wrote. – by David Costill

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.