Salmonella Cases Linked to Small Turtles in Tennessee

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More than 160 cases of human Salmonella infection linked to small turtles have been reported across 30 states, including Tennessee. The majority of these patients, 64 percent, are children age 10 or younger, and 56 percent are Hispanic. Salmonella germs are shed in the droppings of reptiles and amphibians and can easily contaminate their bodies and the water in tanks or aquariums where these animals live, which can spread to people.

The Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than four inches since 1975. However, small turtles continue to cause human Salmonella infections, especially among young children.

The Tennessee Department of Health is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other state and federal health officials to investigate overlapping, multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to exposure to turtles or their environments.


Key Messages from State:

  • Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores, or other sources.
  • Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.
  • Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.

ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.


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