Updated 08/08/2012 05:49 PM
Baby turtles could pose salmonella threat
Health officials in Schoharie County are warning parents that their child could be at risk from a prize they may have won at this year's sunshine fair. As YNN's Maria Valvanis explains, sometimes the smallest creatures can pose the largest threats.
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SCHOHARIE COUNTY, N.Y. – New York Wildlife Rescue Center Director Wes Laraway said, "Salmonella is the most immediate risk and small children could get very sick or even die from that."
Which is the reason laws prohibit the distribution of turtles smaller than four inches. But a vendor at last week's Sunshine Fair failed to do their research and these little guys were given out to little kids as a prize.
"All vendors are inspected when they first get there. The issue was only goldfish were there when they first started. The turtles arrived later," said Schoharie County Health Department Director Asante Shipp-Hilts.
No related infections have been reported yet, but more than a 140 have been reported in the U.S., including 25 in New York. After discovering what was happening, the health department confiscated the turtles that were left and brought them to the New York Wildlife Rescue Center.
"Usually sold in lots of 100, so if 30 were brought to me and three people have called me, I can account for 33 of them," said Laraway.
Meaning a lot of people, and turtles, are still at serious risk.
Laraway said, “[without] proper housing, proper feeding, proper heat and proper lighting, the turtles will most likely die."
"Putting it on counter top or your washing it in the sink and then you’re putting your hands in your mouth or eating food, that's how it's transmitted," said Shipp-Hilts.
And if you're one of the people that won a turtle, health officials want you to know practicing everyday healthy habits could help prevent getting the infection.
"Proper hand washing techniques with soap and water and cleaning surfaces that were exposed and to urge residents that may of gotten these turtles to take them to the rescue center so they can have a proper home," said Shipp-Hilts.
"This is one of the saddest things I've seen in a while. I don't think any animal should be given out as a prize," said Laraway.