theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

Health and Medicine

September 29, 2012

Tiny pet turtles blamed for salmonella outbreak

WASHINGTON — They're cute but potentially deadly.

Tiny pet turtles, some of them the size of a quarter, are to blame for six ongoing salmonella outbreaks that have sickened nearly 200 people and counting — mostly children.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of turtles with shells less than four inches long in 1975, an attempt to keep them away from kids back when small pet turtles were all the rage. The agency found that kids couldn't resist kissing the toy-like reptiles or placing them in their mouths, sometimes contaminating themselves with the salmonella commonly found on turtles.

Turtle-related illnesses dropped sharply after the ban took effect. But as the current outbreaks demonstrate, they're back. Illnesses have been reported in 30 states since last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A thriving black market keeps churning out the small pets, which are often raised on turtle farms and sold at flea markets, on the Web or in stores.

In Maryland, authorities have seized about 500 undersize turtles in the past year. They've busted two turtle vendors in Montgomery County in the past two weeks: One for selling the turtles to a Silver Spring store; the other for hawking them from a parking lot at the Six Flags America theme park in Largo, said Mike Lathroum, a senior officer with the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

"We've really seen a big influx of these turtles for sale," Lathroum said. "I don't know why. . . . We've not been able to determine the source."

Turtles big and small shed salmonella in their droppings, and the bacteria ends up on their shells and skin. People who touch the turtles or their habitats risk infection if they don't wash their hands afterward. Cleaning a turtle's aquarium in a sink or letting one loose in the house also enables the turtle to spread the salmonella to household surfaces.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Health and Medicine
AP Video
Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue
Stocks
Poll

Are you pleased that Oklahoma has repealed Common Core standards for public school students?

Yes
No
     View Results