A three-week-old girl died of salmonella transmitted by a pet turtle, while 22 other people were infected by the small reptiles across the United States since September, health authorities said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed the incidents in a weekly report dated Friday reminding Americans of the health risks associated with small turtles, whose sale was banned in 1975 because they can infect children.
The infant girl was taken to a Florida hospital, where she was in febrile and in septic shock, on February 20. She was given antibiotics but died on March 1, the CDC said in its "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report."
Cultures of cerebrospinal fluid and blood samples taken from the infant found a type of salmonella identitical to the one carried by the turtle, it said.
The turtle, which had a 3.2-centimeter (1.25-inch) shell, had been given to the family in January by a friend who bought it at a flea market.
The 1975 law bans the sale of turtles with a carapace fewer than 10 centimeters (four inches) long.
"Small turtles have posed a particular danger to young children because these turtles might not be perceived as health hazards and can be handled like toys," the CDC said.
"Salmonella infections in children can be severe and can result in hospitalization and occasionally in death," it said.
Salmonella can be transmitted to humans by direct or indirect contact with a turtle or its feces, the CDC said.
The CDC said that turtle-linked infections continue to occur because the sales ban is not "fully enforced" and contains exceptions for educational purposes.
Salmonella illness remains a "major public health problem in the United States," the CDC said in the report
An estimated 1.4 million nontyphoidal human Salmonella infections occur each year, causing about 15,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths, it said.