What's green, slimy, small and inexpensive, oh yes, and can cause you some of the nastiest stomach problems you'll ever have? Give up?
It's a turtle. A tiny turtle that can be big trouble for you and your family, especially your kids. You've probably seen them lately, being sold on valley corners, usually on weekends. "Turtles for Sale", the harmless looking sign reads. But that sign can be misleading.
Recently, the Maricopa County Health Department put out a warning about our friends the turtles. Most of them for sale are red eared sliders, cute little guys, and gals, that many of us had as pets when we were kids. The warning follows eleven cases of Salmonella in children under eight years old. Each case was traced to the purchase of a street corner turtle. Salmonella is a bad bacteria that can cause severe stomach problems, and can actually be fatal in young kids, older folks and those who have weakened immune systems. And as you can figure out by now, red eared sliders as well as other types of turtles and reptiles are great carriers of this disease. The best way to avoid it is to keep nagging your kids to wash their hands...really wash their hands, with antibacterial soap. Salmonella can be spread from person to person also, so even if you don't have a turtle at your home, your children can run into trouble.
It's illegal to sell turtles under four inches in length in Arizona, and you need a permit for street corner vending. Still, turtles are sold in almost every area of the valley. Do yourself and your family a big favor, pass on the chance to add this sweet little turtle to your household. It's just not worth the chance.
If you need more information on turtles, Salmonella or anything else to do with health and reptiles, give the county health dept. a call at 602-506-6900 or check 'em out on www.maricopa.gov. Also, get in touch with the Phoenix Herpetological Society at 602-550-7029 or www.phoenixherp.com. Take care and do what my mom always told me to do...wash those darn hands.