Baby turtles, chicks, ducklings, and rabbits are just some of the baby animals commonly associated with the Easter holiday but parents should be careful about letting their children touch them.
Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) is reminding parents that baby animals can pass Salmonella and other harmful bacteria to people.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been researching and investigating three Salmonella outbreaks that are ongoing and associated with turtle exposures. The outbreaks have been linked to 63 people in 16 states.
Six Maryland residents have been identified as having an infection linked to the outbreaks. All six cases reported exposure to a baby turtle.
Three of those cases were from people who had bought the baby turtle. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration strictly prohibits the sale of pet turtles with shells that are four inches or smaller.
Children who hold, cuddle, or kiss these baby animals could become infected. The symptoms of Salmonella are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and/or abdominal cramps six to 72 hours after exposure.
In order to prevent Salmonella infections associated with exposure to animals, DHMH recommends the following:
- Recognize the risk of Salmonella infections in pets, including chicks, ducklings, rabbits, amphibians, reptiles, turtles and other animals.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after handling any pets, pet food, treats and water the pets may have been in.
- Do not use kitchen sinks to empty or wash the pet’s habitat (e.g., cage, aquarium or tank). If possible, empty and wash the habitat outside of the home, using disposable gloves. If bathtubs are used for cleaning the pet’s habitat, they should be cleaned thoroughly and disinfected with bleach. Young children should not be allowed to clean the pet’s habitat.
- If you are at high risk for serious Salmonella infection (children under five years old, older persons, pregnant women, or people who have weak immune systems, such as cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplants) avoid contact with animals and pets and their habitat (e.g., cage, aquarium or tank).
- Watch for symptoms of Salmonella infection such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps in yourself or in your family members. Call your health care provider if you or a family member has any of these symptoms.