Small Turtles Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

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(Memphis) They may be cute, but you don't want to kiss them.

We're talking about pet turtles.  

It turns out the reptiles are a cause of a major salmonella outbreak across the country, especially among children.

The Centers for Disease Control says the salmonella outbreak across thirty states has been linked to small turtles, some as small as a quarter.  

Authorities say the toy-sized turtles are to blame for more than 160 people getting sick, five people in Tennessee.

Officials say people are getting poisoned by salmonella found on the skin of the reptiles and most falling ill are children under 10-years-old.

"Kids like to handle them then kids like to eat without washing your hands and they have been known to kiss their pet turtles too," said Herpetologist Steve Reichling from the Memphis Zoo.

Reichling says that's never a good idea.

Pet turtles have long been a source of salmonella outbreaks.

So much so, the Food and Drug Administration took a stand on it decades ago, "Since the mid 70's it's illegal to sell a turtle under four inches in shell length."

People have reported buying the small turtles recently  from flea markets, pet shops and online.

While, they are cute, Reichling says small turtles don't make good pets.

The CDC says reptiles should never been kept in homes where there are small children or people with compromised immune systems and remember if you ever touch a reptile, always wash your hands.

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