The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued a warning early this month after 347 people in 37 states and the District of Columbia contracted salmonella since last year.
Seventy percent of those infected were 10 years of age or younger.
CDC officials have traced the disease back to small turtles.
Melissa Atkins, epidemiologist for the Northwest Georgia Health District based in Rome, cautioned parents.
“Small turtles are not the best pets for young children,” Atkins said. “It’s illegal for pet stores to sell pet turtles smaller than a certain size.”
The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of small turtles as pets in 1975. However, many people get their turtles from street vendors, according to the CDC, which warned that turtles with a shell length of less than four inches should not be purchased or given as pets.
People infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12- to 72-hours after they are infected. The disease lasts about four to seven days and most people recover with treatment.
However, severe infections may occur in infants, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
Anyone who is infected with a severe case of the disease should be treated with antibiotics promptly.