Small Turtles Are Dangerous

Outbreak Advisory



  • Since the last update on August 29, 2017, 29 more ill people have been reported from 14 states.
  • CDC and multiple states are investigating a multistate outbreak of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet turtles.
  • A total of 66 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni have been reported from 18 states.
  • Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 1, 2017 to October 14, 2017
  • Of 53 people with available information, 23 have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
  • Twenty-three (35%) ill people are children younger than 5.
  • Epidemiologic and laboratory findings link the outbreak of human Salmonella Agbeni infections to contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat.
  • In interviews, ill people answered questions about contact with animals during the week before becoming ill. Twenty (40%) of the 50 people interviewed reported contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat, before getting sick.
  • Of the 20 ill people who had contact with turtles, 12 (60%) reported contact with small turtles that had a shell length of less than 4 inches. They reported purchasing the turtle from a street vendor or receiving the turtle as a gift.
  • In 2015, state and local health officials collected samples from turtles at a street vendor. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella Agbeni isolated from ill people in this outbreak is closely related genetically to the Salmonella Agbeni isolates from the turtles at the street vendor. This close genetic relationship means that human infections in this outbreak are likely linked to turtles.
  • Do not buy small turtles as pets or give them as gifts.
  • Since 1975, the FDA has banned selling and distributing turtles with shells less than 4 inches long as pets because they are often linked to Salmonella infections, especially in young children.
  • All turtles, regardless of size, can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow simple steps to enjoy pet reptiles and keep your family healthy.
  • This outbreak is expected to continue since consumers might be unaware of the risk of Salmonellainfection from small turtles. If properly cared for, turtles have a long life expectancy.


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