The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an investigation Tuesday into an ongoing outbreak of a rare subtype of Salmonella enterica linked to exposure to pet turtles.
So far, the outbreak involves 37 cases of Salmonella enterica serovar Agbenia infections across 13 states, which led to 16 people being hospitalized. Overall, 12 of the sickened people are children aged five or younger, an age group particularly vulnerable to the bacteria. No deaths have been reported.
With lab testing and epidemiological data, the CDC linked the outbreak to exposure to pet turtles or their habitats. The charmingly slow, half-shelled reptiles are known carriers of Salmonella. When infections jump to humans, they can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, and urinary tract infections. Young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable. For these reasons, the CDC has warned of the dangers of owning pet turtles, particularly tiny ones that children like to handle, snuggle, and—in some cases—pop into their mouths.