(CNN)Small turtles may be cute but they are making people sick. That was the warning from U.S. federal health officials on Wednesday.
Between January 2015 and April of this year there have been four separate multi-state outbreaks of salmonella associated with touching turtles smaller than four inches long.
In all, 133 individuals in 26 states have become sick. Thirty-eight of those individuals were so ill they were hospitalized, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numbers are expected to rise.
“The outbreak is expected to continue at a low level for the next several months since people might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from small turtles,” the CDC said in an investigation update detailing each of the four outbreaks.
The FDA banned the sale of these animals in 1975, but outbreaks like this one continue to occur. They ask pet store owners not to sell the reptiles, to wash their hands thoroughly after touching reptiles and all other animals and not to clean aquariums in a sink used for food.
Last month, WHO said reptiles exposed to salmonella may have been exported internationally and asked for countries that import pet reptiles and amphibians to be on the lookout for infected animals.