Small turtles are the cause of an outbreak of salmonellosis in several states that has led to five hospitalizations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday, Medical Xpress reported.
The agency linked the outbreak, which infected at least 15 people in 11 states with salmonellosis, to turtles less than 4 inches long.
Most of the small reptiles were purchased over the Internet.
Federal law prohibits the sale of small turtles as pets.
The Centers investigative report says the true number of people infected is likely higher, but many recover without tests or medical care, with many of those infected being children.
Typically, symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps that occur between six hours and six days after infection with the bacteria.
The illness usually lasts four to seven days, although some people develop severe symptoms that require hospitalization. Children younger than 5 years old, people over 65, and people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against buying turtles with shells less than 4 inches long. The agency says turtles longer than 4 inches should be purchased only from reputable pet stores or rescues.