CDC: Stop Kissing Turtles

Small turtles have been linked to salmonella outbreak in 11 states
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2023 3:34 PM CDT
CDC: 'Don't Kiss or Snuggle Your Turtle'
Puckering up is not advised.   (Getty Images/Glopphy)

Kissing a turtle won't transform it into a slow-moving prince—and according to a Centers for Disease of Control and Prevention warning, it could make you very sick. An outbreak investigation notice posted Wednesday warns that at least 26 people have been sickened and nine hospitalized in a multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to small turtles, the Hill reports. A CDC map shows that cases have been reported in 11 states, including Tennessee, which had six cases, the most of any state. The agency said pet turtles of any size can spread salmonella in their droppings but those with shells with less than 4 inches long "are a known source of illness."

"Don't kiss or snuggle your turtle, and don't eat or drink around it" because it can spread salmonella germs to your mouth, the CDC notice said. "Keep your turtle out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat, store, or prepare food," the agency advised. The CDC said owning pet turtles is "not recommended for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, or people with weakened immune systems."

The sale of turtles with shells smaller than 4 inches was banned in 1975 after thousands of cases of severe illness were reported, but they can still be "found illegally online and at stores, flea markets, and roadside stands," the CDC said. The Washington Post notes that turtles are far from the only animal the CDC doesn't want you to kiss. The agency advises against kissing cats, dogs, and lizards. Chickens, ducks, and frogs are considered especially high-risk, as are turtles—and hedgehogs. (More turtles stories.)

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