Pet Turtle Linked to Infant's Death

Prohibiting their sale may help prevent salmonellosis in children

FRIDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Small pet turtles sold in the United States are associated with a risk of salmonellosis in children, and may have caused an infant's death earlier this year, according to a report in the July 6 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Their sale is banned by federal law in the United States, but sales still occur.

Dan Chatfield, of Clark County Combined Health District in Clark County, Ohio, and colleagues report that a 3-week-old infant was diagnosed with Salmonella serotype Pomona and died at a Florida hospital on March 1 this year. A fecal sample from the family's pet turtle, given as a gift in late January, yielded S. Pomona isolates that were indistinguishable from those of the patient.

A similar strain was identified in 19 other cases that occurred in 11 states (median patient age, 3 years) in late 2006 or 2007. Twelve of 15 patients who were interviewed had direct or indirect contact with pet turtles in the seven days prior to illness.

"The recent cases of turtle-associated human salmonellosis described in this report emphasize the need for improved prevention measures. Public education aimed at preventing reptile-acquired Salmonella infections is ongoing in the United States," states a related editorial note. "Such education measures are helpful, but prohibiting the sale of small turtles likely remains the most effective public health action to prevent turtle-associated salmonellosis."

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