Harris said many people aren't aware of the risk of Salmonella infections from pet turtles. "Only 20 percent of these cases [in the report] said they were aware there was a connection between Salmonella infection and reptile exposure," she said.
Up to 90 percent of turtles carry Salmonella, Harris said. "This is a very serious infection, especially for small children," she added.
The infection is spread from contact with the turtles, but the contact doesn't have to be direct, Harris said. "We have one case where a baby was bathed in a sink that turtle waste was disposed in," she said.
In some cases, the children put the turtle in their mouth. In other cases, children became sick from just living in the same house with a turtle or other infected family members. Salmonella can live on surfaces for weeks, Harris noted.
Adults can get sick from Salmonella, Harris said, but children get much sicker, and some can die, she said. "Small children should not be allowed to come into contact with turtles, the outcome is too dangerous and the risk is too high," she said.
According to the CDC, Salmonella infection remains a major public health problem in the United States. Each year, 1.4 million cases are reported, an estimated 15,000 people are hospitalized, and 400 Americans die.
Gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, caused by the bacteria, typically begin 12 to 36 hours after exposure and generally last for two to seven days.
Reptiles and amphibians, including turtles, account for about 6 percent of all Salmonella cases and 11 percent of cases for those under 21.
One infectious-disease expert strongly advised parents not to buy these turtles as pets for their children.
"This is a problem that has been with us for more than 40 years," said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, the distinguish
All rights reserved