In the latest edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a publication of Centers for Disease Control, there is an article about turtles and instances of salmonella infections. A significant number of these arose from small Red Eared Sliders purchased at flea markets. Here is the link.
Florida On February 20, 2007, a female infant aged 3 weeks with a 1-day history of poor feeding and lethargy was evaluated in an emergency department at a Florida hospital. The patient was transferred immediately to a tertiary-care pediatric hospital; on arrival, she was febrile and in septic shock. Antibiotics were administered. She died on March 1. Cultures of cerebrospinal fluid and blood samples yielded Salmonella serotype Pomona.
The parents of the patient were interviewed by the Florida Department of Health. A family friend had purchased a small turtle with a carapace of 1.25 inches from a flea market in north central Florida in mid-November 2006. The turtle was purchased as a pet and given to the patient's family in late January 2007. After the death of the infant, laboratory testing of the turtle and its environment was performed by the Florida Bureau of Laboratories. A fecal sample from the turtle yielded S. Pomona. The S. Pomona isolates from the patient and the turtle were indistinguishable by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).
Ohio. In September 2006, a previously healthy boy aged 8 years had onset of bloody diarrhea with cramping, headache, vomiting, and fever of 101.0°F (38.3°C). The Ohio Department of Health Laboratory isolated Salmonella I 4,,12:i:- from a stool specimen. The patient recovered at home after 3 days. No family member reported a similar illness while the patient was ill. However, the next month, the patient's brother, aged 12 years, had onset of bloody diarrhea; a stool specimen yielded Salmonella I 4,,12:i:-.
Two weeks before the first patient became ill, the family had purchased three red-eared slider turtles as pets, each with a carapace of <4 inches, at a flea market in southeastern Kentucky. The Ohio Department of Agriculture Laboratory isolated Salmonella from the coelomic contents of the turtles and a water sample from the turtles' aquarium. The isolates were serotyped at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory; the turtle isolates were Salmonella I 4,,12:i:-, S. Litchfield, and S. Infantis, and the water sample isolate was S. Infantis. The Salmonella I 4,,12:i:- isolates from the patients and turtles were indistinguishable by PFGE performed at the Ohio Department of Health Laboratory.
Tennessee. In September 2006, a previously healthy woman aged 45 years was hospitalized with diarrhea, chills, fever of 102.8°F (39.3°C), abdominal cramps, myalgia, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting of 24 hours' duration. The patient was treated with antibiotics and intravenous fluids and released after 3 days. A stool specimen yielded Salmonella I 4,,12:i:-. The patient became ill less than 2 weeks after her son, aged 7 years, received two small red-eared slider turtles, both with carapaces of <2 inches, as a gift from family friends who had purchased them in Florida from an unknown vendor. The child also had onset of diarrhea shortly after receiving the turtles, but no specimens were collected during his illness.
County health officials visited the patient's home and collected a stool specimen from the child, an external surface swab from both turtles, and a water sample from the aquarium. Specimens from the child and turtles yielded Salmonella I 4,,12:i:- isolates, which were indistinguishable from the mother's isolate based on PFGE performed at the Tennessee Department of Health Laboratory. The aquarium water sample yielded Salmonella Pomona.
The thing that is important to remember here, is that is NOT just enough to make sure children don't come in contact with the animal, and just washing hands is NOT enough.
Often food bowls, dishes or other things that have come into contact with the turtle or it's environs can end up in the sink ...where meals are prepared. It's a short jump from there to food, ...or maybe an infants bottle.