While we wondered if the FDA was simply crying ‘wolf’ on the safety of turtles as pets to cause some press to come their way, it turns out that the FDA’s claim that turtles can be unsafe as pets is completely valid.
According to an article written Consumer Affairs “turtles often carry Salmonella on their outer skin and shell surfaces, and people can get Salmonella infection by coming in contact with turtles or their habitats.”
While Salmonella does not usually make turtles sick — making it hard for anyone other than a trained professional to recognize the signs of Salmonella in a turtle — people who come in contact with turtles who have Salmonella are prone to becoming seriously ill. This is especially true for children and eldery individuals who usually have a weaker immune system than the average adult.
One of the scariest parts of turtles carrying Salmonella is that people who get Salmonella from touching a turtle usually won’t know that they got it from the turtle (thinking instead that they got it from something they ate) leaving the infected turtle in a situation where it can infect more people without them realizing it.