Small pet turtles are likely to blame for the recent outbreaks of salmonella that have affected over 200 people according to reports, with a number of those victims being kids.
Over the summer, the sale of small pet turtles on the street seemed to be on the rise. The tiny turtles, a small as small child's fist, appeared to line a number of different city streets.
"I want one of those, mommy," a small boy said to his mother near a downtown Brooklyn train station. "How much are they?" the boys mother asked.
A measly $10 included the turtle, a miniature habitat with colored rocks, and even a play alligator.
"Ok," the mother responded. "I guess."
But like many parents, what that mother may not have known was that those very turtles were illegal to sell, and for a good reason. The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of the mini turtles- sometimes referred to as undersized, red-eared sliders- in 1975.
Harmless as the critter seemed, sitting there wading away at water (they can be quite friendly in fact), its hard to believe that the unsuspecting turtle is capable of doing any harm- which is precisely what makes them lethal.
The small turtles are known to carry salmonella and while the contagion can be controlled, small children appear to have a hard time not putting their hands in their mouth after fondly handling their new pets. As a result, over 200 outbreaks of salmonella are being blamed on the small reptile. Over 500 of those turtles were seized recently in Maryland, according to The Washington Post.
"We've really seen a big influx of these turtles for sale," Mike Lathroum, a senior officer with the Maryland Natural Resources Police, told the paper. "I don't know why ... We've not been able to determine the source."
The salmonella is found in the turtles droppings, but quickly spreads to their shells, habitats, and your house if they are allowed to roam free.
"In a space the size of a pinhead, you can have up to a million salmonella bacteria," said Eduardo Groisman, a microbiology professor at the Yale School of Medicine told the WP. "That's more than enough to make a person sick."