Published Date: 2008-10-23 23:57:39
Subject: PRO/AH> Salmonellosis, human, pet turtles - USA (05)
Archive Number: 20081023.3356
SALMONELLOSIS, HUMAN, PET TURTLES - USA (05)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Thu 23 Oct 2008
From: Gary Balsamo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Re: [Louisiana] turtle farms
In reality very few cases of _Salmonella_ involving turtles are
reported to our office [Office of Public Health, LDHH (Louisiana
Department of Health and Hospitals), New Orleans]. The only exposure
information we collect is the presence of a turtle in the home. I
know of only one case occurring since I arrived here in 2002 (one
case where the people indicated a turtle was in the home).
I think all _Salmonella_ isolates from children are sent to CDC (US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for typing. Strains
directly related to reptiles are reported from Louisiana, but no
direct link to turtles is proven. In many cases the origin is either
never identified or is linked to another reptile species.
The federal public health folks and regulatory agencies, in my
opinion, have unfairly targeted Louisiana turtle farmers. There are
several pertinent facts:
1. Although all Louisiana turtles are produced by "salmonella free"
techniques, the farmers are aware that the turtles will likely
re-acquire _Salmonella_ from the environment (food, tank decorations,
2. The farmers request that FDA (US Food & Drug Administration)
permit the sale of these turtles, but that mandatory point-of-sale
educational materials be distributed with the turtles. These
educational materials would recommend restricting access to the
animals by small children and treating the environment with
disinfectants like Baquacil.
3. The proposal for distribution of these types of educational
materials and utilization of the "salmonella free" methods are unique
to Louisiana farmers.
4. Other reptile species that are legally sold are just as capable of
transmitting _Salmonella_. These other species are often foreign
species and represent a potential threat to our environment.
5. The argument that turtles with a carapace less than 4 in (10 cm)
in diameter are a danger due to a child's tendency to place the
animals in his/her mouth seems reasonable. Nevertheless evidence is
emerging that very high percentages of puppies and kittens may harbor
_Salmonella_. I think it more likely that a small child would kiss a
pet kitten or puppy than place his/her mouth on a turtle. However
applying the same logic to dogs and cats would outlaw sales of these
pets, which is preposterous. The point of sale educational materials
should persuade parents to not allow children to handle the turtles.
6. Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry does an excellent
job monitoring this industry.
Federal health officials will not accept the reality that people will
acquire turtles as pets. These officials seem to prefer the sale of
untreated, unregulated turtles, since they refuse to police retail
markets, in lieu of supporting an honest industry that is attempting
to do the right thing.
Gary Balsamo, DVM
State Public Health Veterinarian
Office of Public Health
Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Department of Health & Hospitals
New Orleans, LA
[Not all "pet turtles" are created equal. There is a significant
background of illegally raised turtles out there in the USA and it is
notable that the claims of pet turtle exposure do not differentiate
between the legal and monitored turtles, and the illegal and probably
infected turtles. One might define epidemiology as the medical
science of denominators; clinical medicine as of numerators. Any case
of salmonellosis is unfortunate and sometimes a tragedy, but treating
all pet turtles, whatever their origins, as of equal risk will just
ensure that the responsible sanitary breeders will go out of business,
leaving the demand to be met by those with low standards. And then
cases will continue to occur unabated. In fact the incidence will
increase. - Mod.MHJ]