We usually focus on food-borne illness here, but when pets poise a serious threat  to children due to salmonella we want to help get the word out. 

HealthDay Reporter Steven Reinberg today wrote about the Centers for Disease Control finding that 103 children got salmonella poisoning in the last half of 2007 from their pet turtles.  No deaths were reported, but dozens of children were treated at hospitals after being infected with salmonella.

The sale of small turtles under 4 inches has been banned in the United States since 1975.  Nevertheless, CDC estimates there are two million pet turtles in the country.  Reinberg reports that:

According to the report, cases were reported in all but 15 states, with most cases occurring in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas.

 Two of the infected children included a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl who became stricken after swimming in an unchlorinated in-ground pool owned by the family of the older girl. Two pet turtles, purchased at a South Carolina pet store and owned by the family of the older teen, were allowed to swim in the pool, the CDC reported.

(CDC’s Julie) Harris said many people aren’t aware of the risk of Salmonella infections from pet turtles. "Only 20 percent of these cases [in the report] said they were aware there was a connection between Salmonella infection and reptile exposure," she said.

 Up to 90 percent of turtles carry Salmonella, Harris said. "This is a very serious infection, especially for small children," she added.

 The infection is spread from contact with the turtles, but the contact doesn’t have to be direct, Harris said. "We have one case where a baby was bathed in a sink that turtle waste was disposed in," she said.

Check out the entire HeathDay story here.