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Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Small Turtles

Contact with reptiles (such as turtles, snakes, and lizards) and amphibians (such as frogs and toads) can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Salmonella germs are shed in the droppings of reptiles and amphibians and can easily contaminate their bodies and the water in tanks or aquariums where these animals live, which can spread to people.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches since 1975. However, small turtles continue to cause human Salmonella infections, especially among young children.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in multiple states and the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine to investigate 8 overlapping, multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to exposure to turtles or their environments (e.g., water from a turtle habitat).

Key Messages

  • Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores, or other sources.
  • Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.
  • Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.

ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

Selected Quotes

Since 1975, it has been illegal in the United States to sell or distribute small turtles with shells that measure less than 4 inches in length. This ban, enforced by the FDA , likely remains the most effective public health action to prevent Salmonella infections associated with turtles.
-Casey Barton Behravesh DVM, DrPH, Deputy Branch Chief, Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Many people don't know that turtles and other reptiles can carry harmful germs that can make people very sick. For this reason, turtles and other reptiles might not be the best pets for your family, especially if there are children 5-years-old and younger or people with weakened immune systems living in your home.
-Casey Barton Behravesh DVM, DrPH, Deputy Branch Chief, Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. Whether these threats are chronic or acute, manmade or natural, human error or deliberate attack, global or domestic, CDC is the U.S. health protection agency.

Contact Information

CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Casey Barton Behravesh MS, DVM, DrPH, DACVPM

Red eared slider turtle
Red eared slider turtle
Small turtle
Small turtle



Pets Can Make People Sick
Screenshot ofCasey Barton Behravesh, MS, DVM, DrPH

Author: Casey Barton Behravesh, MS, DVM, DrPH, DACVPM
Date: 8/22/2011
Pets Can Make People Sick

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