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JOPLIN, Mo. (KSNF/KODE) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips after a salmonella outbreak in 18 states — including Missouri — is linked to small turtles.

The CDC is currently investigating an outbreak of Salmonella that has hospitalized 23 people and made a total of 59 people sick in a total of 18 states. Nearly half of those sick are children younger than five. 

Public health officials say at this time, it appears the outbreak is linked to small turtles. The CDC says turtles of any size can carry Salmonella. Those germs live in their droppings, and people usually come into contact with them by touching pet turtles, their tank water, or anything in the area in which they roam — then touching food or their mouths with unwashed hands. 

Because there are so many turtle-caused illnesses, federal law bans the sale and distribution of turtles with shells less than four inches long.

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According to the CDC, there are some things turtle lovers can do to make sure they stay safe from an illness like Salmonella:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching or feeding a turtle, or after touching or cleaning the area they live and roam.
  • Don’t hold the turtle near your face, or eat or drink around them.
  • When you wash the turtle or their habitat, use a wash tub and sponge or scrub that are just for them, and thoroughly disinfect anything you use to clean them.