Salmonella in Turtles
Tiny turtle, big problem. If you see a tiny turtle crossing the road, you may feel inclined to give it a new home as your pet turtle. However, there are some big risks associated with even the tiniest of turtles.
If you are a Duck Dynasty fan, you may have seen the recent episode during which Phil is on a mission to find the perfect pet turtle for Miss Kay. While it was a very sweet and romantic gesture, there can be a big risk when adopting a pet turtle. Small turtles are known to carry the disease Salmonella. This disease does not affect the reptiles and amphibians, such as frogs and toads, that carry it, but it can be pretty serious in humans. The symptoms include: diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fever and headache. Salmonella typically hits a few hours after coming into contact with it, and the illness can last anywhere between two to seven days. People most likely to contract the disease are infants and young children, elderly and those with weakened immune systems. And for them, it can be serious.
Due to the high risk of humans contracting Salmonella, the FDA banned in 1975 the sale of small turtles with a shell span of less than four inches. The FDA then released guidelines to help prevent the disease in a household. They are:
- If your family is expecting a child, remove any reptile or amphibian before the infant arrives.
- Keep reptiles and amphibians out of homes with children under five years old, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems.
- Do not allow reptiles or amphibians to roam freely through the house, especially in food preparation areas.
- Do not clean aquariums or other supplies in the kitchen sink.
- Always thoroughly wash hands after handling any reptile or amphibian and its housing.
This does not mean that you cannot keep a turtle as a pet. Turtles can make great pets if they are cared for properly, and if the owner understands the risks. For other questions regarding turtles and Salmonella, ask your veterinarian.
Do you have a pet turtle? What precautions do you take with regard to salmonella? Tell us about it in the comments!