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Red eared sliders with shell lengths of less than 4 inches are the likely culprit for the Salmonella outbreak that has affected 124 people in 27 states. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Small red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegansis) purchased from street vendors are likely responsible for five multistate outbreaks of salmonella infection affecting 124 people in 27 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The turtles responsible for the infections predominantly have shell lengths of less than 4 inches and were likely purchased from street vendors, the CDC said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of turtles with shell length of less than 4 inches in 1975.
Nineteen people have been hospitalized, but there have been no reported deaths from the outbreaks. More than two-thirds of those infected are 10-years old or younger. The affected states include Alaska (2 cases), Alabama (1), Arizona (3), California (21), Colorado (5), Delaware (3), Georgia (3), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (6), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Nevada (4), New Jersey (7), New Mexico (3), New York (24), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (9), South Carolina (3), Texas (12), Virginia (3), Vermont (1) and West Virginia (1). Because most of those infected purchased their turtles from street vendors, the CDC has found it difficult to determine the source of the turtles, the agency reported.
Those considering the purchase of a red-eared slider should do so from a reputable pet store or turtle breeder and not from street or swap meet vendors or other vendors that don't follow the law. Turtles with shell lengths of less than 4 inches should not be purchased as pets or given as gifts, according to the CDC.