Tiny turtles pose big risk - Philadelphia news

PHILADELPHIA, PA; October 20, 2008

The Philadelphia health department says it's seeing an alarming rise in salmonella cases linked to small turtles kept as pets.

There have been 30 cases in the city this year. That's triple the usual number.

And these are only the reported cases - there's probably many more.

The bacteria is found on 'red-eared slider turtles.'

It's been illegal to sell them since 1975.

But, they're still easy to get, from street vendors, and even in some pet stores.

Dr. Esther Chernak of the Health department says the turtles, and all reptiles and amphibians can be risky.

Dr. Chernak says, "People should assume that if they touch the surface of a reptile or turtle, or if they touch the tank, or the water the turtle lives in, it will be contaminated with salmonella bacteria."

Yolanda Young of North Philadelphia bought one on Mother's Day for her little boy.

6 weeks later, in her 8th month of pregnancy, she got very sick, and spent a week in the hospital.

Yolanda bought her turtle from a vendor who had set up shop on the sidewalk in her neighborhood. And she says they are being sold openly in her area. Recently, she protested when a vendor came into a beauty salon she goes to. She told him not to sell the animals because they make people sick.

She doesn't want anyone else to have the same experience.

Yolanda told us, "Don't purchase one at all. Cause I didn't know salmonella could cause so much pain.....and agony."

The city says it will confiscate any turtles being sold, and will fine anyone selling them.

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