Salmonella is a rod-shaped ‘Gram-negative’ bacteria (which means that it does not
get stained dark during the Gram-staining Test) It is named for an American veterinarian, Daniel E. Salmon, who co-discovered the organisms in pigs in 1885.
Salmonella is a large family of bacteria broken into two main groups-Typhoid-type, and non-Typhoid type. Fortunately for us, the forms that show up in our homes most are two non-Typhoid serovars (a type of species in bacteria) called Salmonella Enteritidis and S. Typhimurium. Different non-typhoid types- S. Pomova and S. Nina- are the most common with reptile infections, which is how scientists can tell if the disease came from food or turtles. Other forms, especially those found in places like packing houses, can be more severe.
Salmonella can be found on many things- cat litter boxes, room temperature eggs or chicken, most other meats, and so on. Even dollar bills and coins can carry the germs. The germs are fairly easily controlled with hot water and soap, common household disinfectants, and proper cooking and storage temperatures. Most infections traced to reptiles and amphibians are from aquatic species with contaminated water, however boas, pythons, iguanas, bearded dragons, and monitors.
Salmonella in tortoises
Tortoises are not as likely to have Salmonella as aquatic turtles because the
turtles get it from living in soiled water. None of the public reports listed at the CDC’s website mentions tortoises, but that does not mean there is no risk. Salmonella in turtles was one reason the ‘4″ Law’ was enacted. Tortoises can pick up Salmonella from eating contaminated foods or feces, or by coming in contact with the germs. They do not actually get the disease and will show no symptoms.
You can minimize Salmonella in your tortoise habitat by:
– Washing your hands before preparing food, and after cleaning their habitat or handling them
– Preparing, storing, and handling foods safely, and discarding uneaten food
– Removing feces promptly
– Using acidic substrate, such as sphagnum moss, to help kill the bacteria
– Using UVB light’s disinfectant properties
– Keeping the habitat, food dishes, water bowls, etc. properly cleaned. Very
dilute bleach (about 1 part bleach to 10 parts water) works well. Rinse
well and let dry.
– Quarantining new tortoises for the appropriate time.
Caring for ill animals after caring for healthy ones.
Salmonellosis symptoms in humans
Salmonellosis, the disease caused by Salmonella, is often called ‘the 24-hour bug’ or ‘stomach flu’. It generally takes between 6 to 72 hours to develop, and lasts for two or three days. It is a rather sudden onset of vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, and chills. It generally goes away as suddenly as it came without special treatment- although the bowels may be upset for some time afterwards.
Most people over the age of 13 have had an attack, although we probably called it a touch of a flu (which does not usually produce the diarrhea or cramps symptoms).
Take it easy and get plenty of fluids. It usually stops on its own after a few days and is not really considered a medical emergency. If the case is more severe, a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic and provide supportive cares. If it lasts more than a couple days, or if you
see any unusual symptoms, see your doctor.
It is usually only considered serious if it affects the young, old, or immune-compromised, and then the main concern is dehydration. A small number of people who get Salmonellosis might also get Reiter’s Syndrome, which can lead to a difficult to treat form of arthritis. Some forms of Salmonella, especially those which come from food processing plants, can be more dangerous.
CDC Salmonella site