Listen Live

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says public health officials are investigating after a salmonella outbreak linked to small turtles has appeared in multiple states.

>> Read more trending news

The CDC says in an investigation notice that turtles with shells less than four inches long are known to source salmonella and that federal law bans the sale and distribution of turtles that size as pets.

The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of small turtles in 1975, according to The New York Times. The decision to ban the turtles under four inches long was because of thousands of cases of severe illness.

The illness was seen among children who had touched their pet turtles before putting food or touching their mouth without washing their hands first, the Times reported.

Turtles of any size that are pets can carry Salmonella germs. The CDC said that the germs can be found in their droppings even if the turtle appears to be healthy. The germs can spread around their bodies, the water in their tanks, and anywhere they are able to roam.

“Pet turtles are not recommended for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, or people with weakened immune systems,” the CDC said, according to the Washington Post. “These people are more likely to get a serious illness from germs that turtles can carry.”

Even though they are banned, the turtles can be purchased illegally online, at stores and flea markets, according to the CDC.

Twenty-six illnesses have been reported and nine people have been hospitalized, according to the CDC. The cases have been found in 11 states including California, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia.

No deaths have been reported, the CDC said.

To prevent salmonella infections, the CDC recommends that you wash your hands regularly, keep perishable foods in the refrigerator and not use sinks to watch pet bedding or cages.