Their names are Iggy and Mo. They were a tradeoff. Your children wanted a dog. Your husband wanted a snake. You wanted quiet. So you got Iggy and Mo. They sit idly in their tank all day long, venturing out only when your youngest drags them from their habitat and allows them to wander through the house. Until now, they have been the perfect pets – small, quiet, easy to care for and clean. But now, now you are in the hospital. Your little boy has been vomiting for the past 36 hours, and the doctors are asking you if he’s been exposed to any turtles. You think of Iggy and Mo, those harmless, shelled reptiles, no bigger than the palm of your hand. How could they have anything to do with his illness? It seems impossible, but it’s not.
All reptiles carry salmonella on their outer skin and shells, and thus can cause infection in any who come in contact with them. Small turtles are the worst offenders, as they are the most frequently handled, particularly by small children. Between May of 2007 and January of 2008, 103 salmonella cases were attributed to turtles. Some hadn’t even touched the reptiles but had merely swum in the same pool or touched a contaminated surface. Most of the infections involved young kids who had to be hospitalized. None died, but that may not be the case next year if precautions aren’t taken.
If you have small turtles in your home and young children, infants, elderly or individuals with lowered resistance to infection, remove the turtles. If you simply can not do that, wash with turtles in mind. Every time you touch the turtle, every time the turtle touches a surface, scrub with heavy duty soap and bleach. If you do not already have a turtle, do not get one. It’s as simple as that.