Salmonella From Pet Turtles Found in 13 States 0

Salmonella enterica bacterium is a nasty little bug. It causes Salmonellosis, with symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, sometimes lasting for as long as seven days or more. The side effects can linger for several months, sometimes developing into chronic arthritis, and can be fatal for infants, toddlers, the elderly and people with impaired immune systems.

WebMD  incorrectly states that Salmonellosis is a type of food poisoning. That is an over-simplification because food poisoning generally refers to illnesses caused by eating spoiled food. You can get Salmonellosis from perfectly fresh foods that have been prepared under septic conditions and contaminated with the bacteria, such as when an infected food handler touches your food without having washed up properly before leaving the rest room.

Salmonellosis has been linked to raw eggs, under-cooked eggs, hollandaise sauce, salad dressings, tiramisu (say it isn’t so),  ice cream, mayonnaise, cookie dough,  frostings, under-cooked meats, raw milk, fruit, and vegetables. In other words, just about everything you eat. Commercially raised poultry are often kept in highly septic conditions in which the baby chicks pick up the bacteria and carry it with them. Other animals also acquire the bacteria from the living conditions under which they have been incubated.  Don’t get too blase if you are an organic person; organic chicken have also been found carrying the bacteria.

You can also pick up Salmonella bacteria from cutting boards, kitchen utensils, kitchen counters, especially if any of those items have come into contact with raw chicken….but it now turns out that you can get the bacteria from living chickens too, as well as ducks, turtles, reptiles, frogs, hamsters, mice (sometimes handled to feed snakes), and other critters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has recently issued warnings about not kissing or dressing up pet chickens, a warning made necessary about the growth in the number of chicken fanciers who raise chickens to show in chicken shows and would never think of eating them.

Yesterday, the CDC issued a warning about pet turtles, which have been named as the culprits in Salmonella outbreaks in 13 states where a total of 37 cases have been reported. Half of those infected required hospitalization. No deaths were reported. The CDC estimates that 70,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning are traced back to contact with reptiles each year. A relatively small percentage of the one million cases reported each year.

An ounce of prevention….

So, you know the drill. Always keep raw meat separate from other foods. Wash kitchen utensils used to handle or cook chicken in hot, soapy water. Don’t kiss your pet chicken, give your children turtles to play with, or allow them to sleep with their hamsters…and always wash your hands with hot water and a disinfecting soap after handling raw meat – or pets – and before eating.

Simple enough, right? Not so fast, because now we have a Salmonella episode linked to papaya. In May and June of this year, 47 people were infected with Salmonella after eating papaya, a fruit usually served fresh. In recent years, according to the CDC, there have been outbreaks associated with spinach, strawberries, alfalfa sprouts, pistachio nuts, health foods, mangoes, cantaloupes, ground beef and tuna. In many of these cases, the infections resulted from septic conditions in the plants where the foods were processed and packaged, rather than anything intrinsic to the food itself.

Adding insult to injury, there have been a number of incidents in which Salmonella bacteria have escaped from clinical laboratories. Back in July of 2017, the CDC released a report indicating that 24 people from one year of age to 95 years of age in 16 states had been infected by the typhimurium strain of the bacteria. Previous episodes of prison breaks by Salmonella from research labs occurred in 2011 and 2014. (One has to wonder what the one year-old and the nonagenarian were doing in those labs.)

Salmonella poisoning is rarely fatal in the United States because we have good protocols in place for treating people with the condition. It is far more dangerous in Third World environments where diarrhea can be fatal for the young and the old.

So, what can you do to avoid Salmonella poisoning?

Not much, really. Giving up meat won’t help very much. If you give up meat and the produce that has been known to carry Salmonella in the past, you will probably starve to death, a more dangerous condition than Salmonella poisoning since it is, you know, one hundred percent fatal.

You can grow your own food, kill your own meat, scrub your hands several times a day but, if you can do those things all the time, you’re either obsessive compulsive or a doomsday prepper. Most of us, however, have to grin and bear it. After all, one million people contract Salmonella in the U.S. each year, but only a few hundred die from it. Those are pretty good odds, aren’t they?

Just don’t give your kids pet chickens, snakes, frogs, or turtles or, if you do, insist that they don’t kiss them, hug them, or sleep with them. There’s plenty of time for them to snuggle up to human chicks and frogs later on in life.