Outbreak Investigation Updates by Date
Published on January 9, 2020 at 3:30 PM ET
This outbreak investigation is over. Always wash your hands after touching pet turtles or their environments. Read more about how to stay healthy around turtles.
CDC and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella Oranienburg infections linked to contact with pet turtles.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using a standardized laboratory and data analysis method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these sequences that are used to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives investigators detailed information about the bacteria causing illness. In this investigation, WGS showed that bacteria isolated from ill people were closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.
As of October 8, 2019, a total of 21 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Oranienburg have been reported from 13 states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Map of Reported Cases page.
Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 29, 2019, to September 3, 2019. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 80 years, with a median age of 24. Seventy-six percent of ill people are female. Of 20 ill people with information available, 7 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported.
Illnesses might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks. Please see the Timeline for Reporting Cases of Salmonella Infection for more details.
WGS analysis did not identify antibiotic resistance in the 12 bacterial isolates available from ill people. Testing of three outbreak isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing methods by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory confirmed these results.
Investigation of the Outbreak
Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicate that contact with pet turtles is the likely source of this outbreak.
In interviews, ill people answered questions about animal contact in the week before they became ill. Of the 17 people interviewed, 12 (71%) reported contact with a pet turtle. Ill people reported buying pet turtles from pet stores or receiving them as a gift.
Ill people reported contact with red-eared sliders and other turtles that were larger than four inches in length. Previous Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to turtles with a shell length less than four inches. Due to the amount of Salmonella illnesses related to these small turtles, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale and distributionexternal icon of turtles with shells less than four inches long as pets.
Regardless of where turtles are purchased or their size, turtles can carry Salmonella germs that can make people sick. Pet owners should always follow steps to stay healthy around their pet.
This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information becomes available.