A salmonella outbreak linked to turtles is spreading across the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 26 people in 11 states have gotten sick and at least nine have been hospitalized in recent months from small pet turtles.
The CDC is warning people not to "kiss or snuggle your turtle," especially if their shells are under four inches long.
"The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and this outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses," the CDC said in a press release. "This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported, as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak."
So far, cases have been reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and California. According to the CDC, the majority of those affected are White males.
While all turtles can carry salmonella, turtles with smaller shells have been identified as the main source of these illnesses, and because of that, sales of these small turtles have been banned in the U.S. since 1975.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning typically include diarrhea and fever, but the bacteria can be deadly.
The CDC also recommends that children under 5 years old, adults over 65 years old, and individuals with compromised immune systems not have pet turtles.
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