After 9 hospitalizations comes this unusual warning: Do not kiss turtles

A widespread outbreak of salmonella in several states in the United States was linked to these cute animals.

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

You must be asking yourself: Who kisses turtles? But the truth is that it happens during the free time when many children go to zoos and parks. 

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning, kissing turtles could make you sick. 

A US outbreak investigation released this week warns that at least 26 people have gotten sick and nine hospitalized in a multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to tiny turtles. 

The CDC map shows cases reported in 11 states, including Tennessee, which had six cases, the most of any state. 

The agency said that small turtles are a known source of disease as they can spread salmonella in their feces. Salmonella is a fecal bacterium found in the digestive tract of various animals, such as birds and rodents (rats and mice). 

From there, the bacterium reaches production lines and food and eventually enters our intestines. The symptoms usually include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, but this bacterium can cause life-threatening conditions in rare cases. According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 420 people die yearly in the United States due to salmonella.

The warning

"Don't kiss or hug your turtle, and don't eat or drink around it," because it can spread salmonella bacteria to your mouth, the CDC statement said. "Keep your turtle out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat, store or prepare food," the agency advised. 

The CDC also mentioned that owning pet turtles "is not recommended for children under 5, adults 65 and older, or people with compromised immune systems." 

The Washington Post notes that turtles are far from the only animals the CDC doesn't want you to kiss. The agency advises against kissing cats, dogs, and lizards. Chickens, ducks and frogs are considered exceptionally high risk, as are turtles and hedgehogs.