If, at some point in the future, you see a turtle so adorable that you feel compelled to kiss it, think again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a new advisory warning the public not to ‘kiss or snuggle’ pet turtles due to the risk of contracting salmonella. The warning comes amid a new outbreak that has cropped up in 13 states.
The CDC has linked an outbreak strain of salmonella to pet turtles, the agency said in an advisory today. According to the warning, this outbreak has currently impacted 21 people in 13 states, seven of whom required hospitalization as a result of the illness. There haven’t been any deaths reported, however.
As part of their investigation into the outbreak, the CDC found that interaction with pet turtles appears to be the common factor between many of these cases — 12 of the 17 patients who were interviewed reported having had contact with a turtle before contracting the illness.
Officials don’t have any more details on the outbreak at this time, though the CDC says it will return with an update once more info is available. In light of the likely source of the illness, however, the agency has published an advisory on how to avoid contracting salmonella from a pet turtle, one of the most obvious being: don’t snuggle with it and don’t kiss it.
In addition, people who are interacting with a turtle should avoid touching their face and mouth; they should also wash their hands with soapy water once they’re finished. This handwashing practice should take place whenever someone feeds a pet turtle or cleans its habitat, as well.
Beyond that, health experts are advising that families should consider getting a different pet if they have children under the age of 5 in the home, adults over the age of 65, or anyone who has a weak immune system. Though most healthy adults are able to recover from salmonella infections, vulnerable individuals face a higher risk of developing a serious health issue.