A salmonella outbreak across parts of the United States has been traced to pet turtles.

Salmonella cases in eleven states are linked to turtles, including one case in Missouri. There have been no deaths so far, but 26 people have fallen ill and nine hospitalized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, salmonella bacteria can be found in the droppings of pet turtles and can easily spread to aquarium water and any surfaces they crawl on. Federal law also bans keeping turtles with shells smaller than four inches long as pets, due to their high risk of spreading diseases.

Anyone who picks up a turtle is strongly urged to thoroughly wash their hands before eating food or touching their face.

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