KANSAS (KSNT) – The purchase of small turtles online has been linked to a Salmonella outbreak in multiple states across the U.S., including Kansas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 people from 11 states have been found to be infected with a strain of Salmonella. Five of these individuals have been hospitalized due to the illness but no deaths have been reported. The majority of those infected have been children.

The CDC suspects that the true number of infections in the U.S. linked to this recent Salmonella outbreak are higher than what has been reported as some people recover without the need for medical care. So far, only one positive case has been identified in Kansas.

An investigation into the cause of the outbreak led the CDC to confirm that those who became ill had purchased small turtles. They are described as being less than four inches long and were acquired through online purchases. Half of those who have been infected bought their turtles from a website called myturtlestore.com despite the federal law banning the sale of small turtles as pets.

The CDC offers the following recommendations:

  • Only buy turtles with shells longer than 4 inches and buy them from reputable pet stores or rescues.
  • Stay healthy around your pet turtle by always washing your hands after touching, feeding, or caring for your turtle. Adults should make sure young children are washing their hands properly.
  • Don’t toss your turtle if you decide you no longer want it. Reach out to your local pet store or reptile rescue.
  • Pick the right pet for your family. Pet turtles are not recommended for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems as they are more likely to get a serious illness from germs that turtles can carry.

Salmonella causes people to develop diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria. The illness usually lasts four to seven days with most people recovering without the need for medical treatment. However, some people may be severely impacted by the bacteria and need to be hospitalized. Children under the age of five, adults 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to become severely ill.

The other states that have reported Salmonella infections related to this recent outbreak include: Washington, Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and New York.