HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says three people in CT are among dozens nationwide who have contracted a salmonella infection linked to turtles. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 1 to August 3.
Reptiles are responsible for 70,000 cases of salmonella-related illness every year, the CDC estimates, including a few major outbreaks in recent years: Pet crested geckos sickened 22 people in 2015.
No deaths have been reported from the outbreak, but 16 people have been hospitalized, according to the agency. One third of the cases are children 5 years of age or younger.
Although it is reported that turtles of any size can contain the Salmonella bacteria but mostly tiny turtles are considered to be riskier.
"Epidemiologic and laboratory findings link the outbreak of human Salmonella Agbeniinfections to contact with turtles or their environments, such as water from a turtle habitat", the agency said in an outbreak advisory issued today.
In interviews with nine ill people about where their turtles came from, six reported buying a turtle from a flea market or street vendor, or receiving the turtle as a gift.
The federal government has banned the sale of the tiniest turtles - those under 4 inches long - since 1975 because they can spread salmonella.
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The outbreak strain has been identified as Salmonella Agbeni.
The agency has so far reported 37 cases of salmonella illness, 11 of which occurred in NY.
The agency advises against buying small turtles or giving them as gifts. Almost half of the victims were 5 or younger.
"This close genetic relationship means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection", the CDC said.
The symptoms of salmonella are diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, which usually appear 12 to 72 hours after people get infected.
Among the CDC's advice to pet owners is avoid keeping turtles or other reptiles in households with young children. Most people feel better within five to seven days.
Children are especially at risk, because, as The Post's Dina ElBoghdady wrote in 2012, "kids couldn't resist kissing the toylike reptiles or placing them in their mouths, sometimes contaminating themselves with the salmonella commonly found on turtles".
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