Every few months, there’s a salmonella outbreak that is inevitably linked back to animals, typically adorable ones like hedgehogs and turtles that people may keep as pets. Each time, the CDC publishes a list of what not to do with these pets alongside its outbreak advisory, and each time there’s an important piece of information: stop kissing high-risk animals.
Small turtles are, admittedly, quite adorable — but you should resist the urge to kiss them, the CDC says, because they’re also likely to give you a salmonella infection even if they appear healthy and clean. Small turtles are the source of an ongoing salmonella outbreak in the US.
The CDC first warned about the salmonella outbreak in late February. Now, nearly a month later, the agency is still investigating the outbreak, which resulted in 22 illnesses, eight hospitalizations, and one death across seven states. If you do decide to buy a pet turtle, the CDC says there are ways to help keep yourself safe.
The agency says you should wash your hands with soapy water after touching or caring for a pet turtle, including after cleaning its habitat. As well, turtles should be kept away from areas where food is prepared and eaten. Beyond that, the CDC says that turtle supplies should be cleaned outdoors whenever possible.
Likewise, the CDC says don’t snuggle your pet turtle and certainly don’t kiss it — this, the agency warns, can transfer salmonella directly to one’s mouth, leading to illness. As well, the CDC notes that small turtles with shells under 4-inches in diameter are banned by the FDA and shouldn’t be purchased.