A street vendor sold red-eared slider turtles at the Flatlander’s Festival for a cheap $5 price in Goodland over the weekend.
Despite how cute the turtles may be, the Sherman County Health Department released a statement via their Facebook page that the sliders naturally carry Salmonella on their shell and skin.
“The little glassy-eyed creatures may look cute and harmless, but turtles can make people very ill,” administrator Donna Terry said. “Salmonella can cause a serious or even life-threatening infection.”
People infected with Salmonella may have diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and headache. Systems usually appear 6-72 hours after contact with bacteria and can be serious. The risk is the highest in infants, young children, elderly, and those who have a lowered natural resistance to infection due to pregnancy, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.
Terry said the small turtles in the home are most often in contact with young children where consequences of infection are likely to be severe.
“Children are at highest risk when they play with the turtle, dangle their fingers in the turtle’s water and then put their hands in the mouth or eat food with unwashed hands,” Terry said.
Officials are cautioning the owners that if a family wants to remove the turtle from their home to not release it into the wild.
“These turtles are not likely to survive in the wild, and they may introduce diseases to wild animals and their environments,” Terry said.
The selling of turtles with a shell less than four inches long is illegal. The health department said they are trying to track down the vendor and that it is unclear how many turtles were sold.
The Sherman County Health Department issued the following warning about the sliders:
“Keep turtles out of kitchens and other areas where food and drink are prepared, served, or consumed. Surfaces such as countertops, tabletops, bare floors and carpeting can become contaminated with the bacteria if the turtle is allowed to roam on them. The bacteria may survive for a long time on those surfaces and it is important that those surfaces are cleaned with a bleach-based household cleaner as directed on the product label or a solution made with five tablespoons of bleach in one gallon of water. ALWAYS wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching any turtle, its housing or anything that comes in contact with the animal. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
“Tanks and food or water containers used for turtles should be cleaned outside of the house. Do not clean aquariums in the kitchen sink, and use bleach to disinfect tubs or any other places where the habitat is cleaned.”
If you have any additional questions, call the Sherman County Health Department at 785-890-4888.
—This story was written and compiled by Beau Tiongson. Additional information via Sherman County Health Dept. press release