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Your mothers cooking is more likely to give you Salmonella than a turtle

Updated on August 20, 2014

Misinformed, Acting Informed.

Dihydrogen Monoxide is tasteless, odourless and colourless, it kills thousands of people daily. Accidentally inhaling it can kill you, prolonged exposure to it's solid form will cause severe tissue damage. It can cause burns and if you ingest it, you may experience excessive sweating, urination, some bloating, nausea and vomiting. Its effects don't end there, contributes to erosion of landscape, buildings and monuments, it's a component of acid rain, accelerates rusting and corrosion of metals, is known to cause electrical failures and it has even been found in excised tumors of terminal patients. Yet the government and the disease centres do nothing, while this contamination reaches epidemic proportions. It is found in our air, soils, plants and animals ...

The above is a mostly well known play on words and an excellent case study on manipulation of information to suit ones purpose. Dihydrogen Monoxide, is water. The show Penn and Teller actually got hundreds of people to sign a petition against Dihydrogen Monoxide.

I am not sure if it is the advent of Facebook, something wrong in schools and homes or maybe it is the natural course of humanity, but supposedly intelligent people fall hook, line and sinker for these types of factual fallacies quite often it would seem. No one wants to check facts. To repeat the words of others without fully understanding the whole topic is lazy, pure and simple. More critical thinking and a little more scepticism that encourages you to learn more.

This article is an attempt to bring some truth and fact to the topic of reptiles and salmonella. This is an attempt to educate, inform and maybe change a few perspectives.

Not Wanted: Salmonella. Wash your hands.
Not Wanted: Salmonella. Wash your hands. | Source

Salmonella Fact Sheet

Salmonella is a rod - shaped, oxygen dependant bacteria that inhabits the intestinal tracts of as many as 90 percent of reptiles. It is also found on raw chicken and sometimes beef or pork, in unpasteurized dairy products, eggs and home made foods like Hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, ice cream, cookie dough and salad dressings can put you at risk for salmonella poisoning if the food and its preparation is not performed hygienically.

It is also found in a wide variety of mammals droppings such as cats, dogs, sheep and cows, chicken, wild turkey and most wild birds were found to have salmonella in their droppings as well. There are roughly 2000 subtypes of salmonella. Some even live in the soil.

Symptoms include fever, chills, sudden onset of headache, stomach cramps, diarrhea, Nausea and sometimes vomiting. These will last anywhere from 3-10 days, with 4-7 being more commonly suffered. If your infected, fear not you will not join the ranks of the walking dead responsible for your entire family, friends and neighbourhood have belly hurting toilet runs. Healthy people recover without medical assistance or treatment. Young babies, kids, elderly and immune compromised may need medical assistance.

In order to become sick with salmonella one needs to eat foods improperly cooked or handled or touched the source and not properly wash ones hands. In order to get salmonella you have to put the source into your mouth (most common way), eyes or cuts. You can not get salmonella from a sneeze or cough, you must touch the source then smoke, lick your fingers, eat, rub your eyes ... all without proper hand hygiene.

Did you own a pet turtle?

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Becoming Informed

These quarter sized turtles, mostly red eared sliders, became all the rage and pet stores were literally overflowing with them. They were selling like hot cakes as were small tanks and dried fruit flies. Parents took the new pet home and set up the small fish bowl sized tank in the kids room, their living rooms and no doubt dining rooms.

Those tanks they bought did not usually have a filter and if the tank was not changed every few days it become dirty, polluted even. Turtles eat and defecate in water, when the water was not maintained and kept clean the turtles environment became unsanitary. Sometime during the height of the pet turtle trade there was an epidemic or outbreak of salmonella and turtles were the ones being blamed.

Mythology says that some parents let their children swim in non chlorinated water in an underground pool, in which turtles lived. When it became knowledge that turtles were the sole cause of this epidemic, fear of the unknown took hold. Turtles became enemy number one.

Rather than educate the people about proper hand washing, the risks associated with reptiles in general since they all carry salmonella, the governments and various agencies used the peoples fear of the unknown to(likely) save the costs associated with educating them and chose to scare them so bad, the poor turtle would forever more be branded a dangerous pet to own.

It's a period of pet turtle history that is stomach turning for me, turtles by the masses were slaughtered, flushed, released into a non native environments (doing more damage than a few days of fanny issues). Do not think I am making light of this, nor am I blaming the parents or the governments and agencies, there were many factors that lead to this ... this modern day dark age.

In my research for this article opinion piece, I found many countries were on board teaching the importance of hand washing, responsible pet ownership and providing accurate scientific based fact sheets. There was one country that was not on board, one that still promoted the turtles as a bio hazard of the early 1970s and 1980s, their fact sheets were not strictly fact.

Surprise! How to Wash Your Hands

You didn't think I was going to skip this part did you? This is the core of the problem with reptiles, improper hand hygiene. I will be the first to admit, I probably kissed my turtle a few times when I was 7 or 8 years old, not with permission mind you, nor did I always wash my hands before or after handling him or his tank. No, I have never had salmonella, and most turtle keepers I know, have never had it either.

It is really amazing, how many people really do not know how to properly wash their hands and how much they miss during a handwash, even one where they know they will tested afterwards. Want a scary fact? Doctors are the worst at washing their hands, nurses and most other health care workers are great, doctors not so much. Below is a short video clip on how to properly wash your hands. There are six steps

  • Wet hands with warm water.
  • Apply soap and lather good (the more bubbly the better).
  • Rub hands together, ensuring to get the palms, thumbs, side of palm and in-between fingers, feel free to curl your fingers and rub your nails lightly along your palm.
  • Rinse the lather away.
  • Dry hands with a clean dry paper towel (it shouldn't be soaking wet when you're done).
  • Then use the same paper towel to turn off the tap (its dirty!) and to open the door.


Say NO to Salmonella with Proper Handwashing

So I have to ask ... why are we still saying touching a turtle will give you salmonella, do not purchase as pets, do not touch or interact with, do not support organizations that support turtles, fear the shelled turtle and do all you can to eradicate this great risk to mankind.

Why is it large dogs attack, maim and kill children, elderly and in general people daily ... yet there are no cries to slaughter the dogs. Instead people say "need more education for that dog owner, dog needs training, dog must have been abused" a thousand excuses for the cute and furry man's best friend, but when a shelled relic of the world crosses your path ...

I believe in educating pet owners.

Wash your hands after handling turtles and turtle habitats, ensure its tank is set up properly with filtration, over filtration even. The cleaner a turtles environment is, the better cared for he is, the less likely he is to be intensely 'covered and dripping' in salmonella.

And please ...

Stop educating people when you don't know a damn thing about anything

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