24 05 2011


In 2004, the Minnesota Department of Health notified the CDC of the isolation of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium from ill hamsters from a Minnesota pet distributor.

A new study identified matching isolates of Salmonella typhimurium in 28 additional human patients in whom the onset of illness occurred between December 2003 and September 2004.  Twenty-two patients or their parents were available for interviews.  Thirteen of these patients in 10 different states reported exposure to pet hamsters, mice or rats.  The medium age of the patients with primary or secondary rodent exposure was 16 years old.

So great is the concern for reptile-associated Salmonellosis in children in the United States that federal regulations prohibit the sale of turtles that have a carapace of < 10.2 cm or less than 4 inches  in length.

Turtle farms currently treat eggs with gentamycin solution to reduce the occurrence of Salmonella shedding.  This practice has also resulted in antimicrobial resistance.  A new study indicates that a combination of sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) and polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) may be used to suppress and possibly eliminate Salmonella species on red-eared slider turtle eggs (Trachemys scripta elegans) and in hatchlings.

From May 1, 2007 to Jan. 18, 2008, the CDC received reports of Salmonella infection in 103 people most of them children, in the U.S.  Thankfully no deaths were reported as a result of infection but 24 people were hospitalized for an average of four days and 51 reported bloody diarrhea that lasted for an average of seven days.

CDC investigators found that most of the infected people were exposed to a turtle or its enclosure shortly before they became ill.  The strain of the disease causing an individuals infection was found to be the same strain found on the turtles they owned.

Turtles and reptiles commonly carry Salmonella bacteria on their outer skin and shell surfaces.

Human symptoms of infection include diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and headache.  Symptoms typically appear six to 72 hours after contact with the bacteria and last two to seven days.

Tips for preventing the spread of Salmonellosis:

  1. Don’t buy small turtles for pets or gifts.
  2. Remove pet turtles from the home before an infant arrives
  3. Keep turtles out of homes with children younger than 5, elderly people or people with weakened immune systems.
  4. Don’t allow turtles to roam freely through the house, especially in food preparation areas.
  5. Don’t clean turtle tanks or other supplies in the kitchen sink.  Use bleach to disinfect tubs or other places where turtle habitats are cleaned.
  6. Always wash hand thoroughly with soap and water after touching any turtles, their housing or anything that comes into contact with them.
  7. Be aware that Salmonella infection can stem from contact with turtles in petting zoos, parks, day care facilities or other locations.
  8. Contact your doctor if you or family members show any symptoms of Salmonella infection.


Mitchell, Mark et al.  “Evaluation of a Combination of Sodium Hypochlorite and Polyhexamethylene biguanide as an Egg Wash for Red-Eared Slider Turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) to Suppress or Eliminate Salmonella Organisms on Egg Surfaces and in Hatchlings.”  American Journal of Veterinary Research.  Volume 68, No. 2, Feb. 2007. p158.

“Rising Salmonella Danger”.  Pet Age. April 2008. Pp. 10-11.




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