OLYMPIA – State health officials are working with local and federal public health partners to investigate a cluster of Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet turtles.
Washington has two cases in this multi-state outbreak, one each from Kitsap and Whatcom counties. Both people report contact with pet turtles, and one person was hospitalized.
“Salmonella can cause a serious or even life-threatening illness,” said Hanna Oltean, epidemiologist with the Department of Health. “People should know that reptiles and amphibians carry Salmonella, and they can best prevent getting and spreading the illness by learning safe pet handling techniques.”
This is not the first time Washington has had Salmonella illness linked to pet turtles. Reptiles like turtles, lizards, and snakes, and amphibians such as frogs can have Salmonella bacteria on their bodies, even when they are otherwise healthy and clean. The germs also get on the animal's tank and other items or surfaces the animal may have come in contact with.
Prevent salmonellosis by always washing your hands after handling reptiles and amphibians. Keep pets and their equipment out of your kitchen or anywhere food is prepared, served, or eaten. Clean reptile and amphibian habitats outside your home to avoid cross-contaminating surfaces.
Children are especially at risk of illness because they are less likely to wash their hands and have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults. Children younger than 5, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience severe illness.
Call your health care provider, if you or your child has a high fever, severe diarrhea, or other symptoms that concern you.
You can read about safe handling of these pets on the Department of Health website.