PA warns of Salmonella outbreak linked to pet turtles

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There's an outbreak of Salmonella cases linked to pet turtles in the state of Pennsylvania.

The Department of Health says the cases are linked to purchases of small turtles from roadside vendors.

So far, there have been nine cases, mostly in the southeastern part of the state.

“While we continue to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of this investigation, the cause of these serious Salmonella cases has been linked to small pet turtles,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “The majority of the cases have occurred in children living in the southeastern part of the state This is concerning, as Salmonella can be particularly serious for children."

The department says anyone who has purchased a small pet turtle and became ill should contact their doctor.

A Salmonella infection can cause fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and most commonly, diarrhea. It can also cause severe illnesses such as bloodstream infections, bone infections and meningitis.

The health department says Salmonella is a serious concern for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. It's suggested that people of higher risk not keep pet turtles.

For those who do keep the pets, the department suggested ways to prevent the spread of the bacteria, including:

- wash your hands after handling the turtle or changing tank water

- don't allow turtles in areas where food is prepared or consumed

- don't allow turtles in areas such as bathroom sinks, tubs or other areas where infants are bathed

- don't eat, drink or smoke while handling turtles

- don't kiss or snuggle with turtles

Turtles and reptiles carry Salmonella and dispose of the bacteria through their feces and the bacteria is transferred through direct and indirect contact with the animals.