ATLANTA, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Turtles are not appropriate pets in households with young children or other high risk individuals, U.S. health officials said Thursday.
A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said high risk individuals include pregnant women, older people and people with weak immune systems.
The report describes a U.S. outbreak of 132 human Salmonella infections between August 2010 and September 2011, associated with exposure to small turtles.
"Many of the infections occurred in young children. Salmonella infections in children may be severe and can result in hospitalization," the report said. "A 1975 federal prohibition against the sale of small turtles -- those with shell lengths less than 4 inches -- led to a substantial decline in human Salmonella infections. However, these infections continue to occur. Increasing enforcement of existing regulations against the sale of small turtles, increasing penalties for illegal sales, and enacting more state and local laws regulating the sale of small turtles can assist in decreasing infections from these reptiles."
Although many reptiles carry Salmonella, small turtles pose a greater risk to young children because they are perceived as safe pets, are small enough to be placed in the mouth, and can be handled as toys, CDC officials said.
"Despite a 30-year ban on small turtles, this ongoing outbreak suggests that ban enforcement efforts, as well as public education efforts, have not been fully successful and should be examined," CDC officials said.