Pet Turtles: Cute But Commonly Contaminated with Salmonella



Turtles commonly carry the Salmonella bacteria on their outer skin and shell surfaces. Reptiles like bearded dragons and geckos can also infect people with Salmonella. These little glassy-eyed creatures may look cute and harmless, but small turtles and reptiles like bearded dragons and geckos can make people very ill. 

People can get infected with Salmonella by coming in contact with:

Turtles or other reptiles (lizards, snakes);
Amphibians (frogs, salamanders, newts); and
The habitats of reptiles or amphibians, such as cages, tanks and aquariums.

Salmonella can cause a serious or even life-threatening infection in people, even though the bacteria do not make reptiles or amphibians sick. One example: the 2007 death of a 4-week-old baby in Florida linked to Salmonella from a small turtle. The DNA of the Salmonella from the turtle matched that from the infant.

People infected with Salmonella may have diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Symptoms usually appear six to 72 hours after contact with the bacteria and last about two to seven days. Most people recover without treatment; but some can become so sick that they need to be treated in a hospital.

Who Is at Risk of Salmonella Infection?

Anyone can get Salmonella infection…

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