Pet hedgehogs fingered by CDC as source of Salmonella outbreak

Eleven people in 8 states have been infected with Salmonella Typhimurium after coming in contact with pet hedgehogs, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One person has been hospitalized.

The outbreak strain was recovered in samples obtained from three pet hedgehogs in two ill patients’ homes in Minnesota.

Illnesses have been confirmed in patients from Colorado (1), Maine (1), Minnesota (2),  Mississippi (1), Missouri (3), Nebraska (1), Texas (1) and Wyoming (1).

Ten of the eleven outbreak victims reported contact with pet hedgehogs obtained from various sources, including pet stores, breeders or online. A common supplier of the hedgehogs has not been identified.

Outbreak victims are between 2 and 28 years old, with 50% of them being 12 years old or younger.

In 2013, pet hedgehogs infected with Salmonella Typhimurium were responsible for an outbreak of salmonellosis in 12 states. One person died, and 8 were hospitalized. In all, 26 people were confirmed to have been infected with the outbreak strain.

Hedgehogs are known to carry Salmonella, according to a 2005 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Approximately 28% of infected hedgehogs display no symptoms of the disease.

CDC offers the following advisory to pet owners and retailers of hedgehogs

  • People who own or come in contact with hedgehogs should take steps to stay healthy around their pet.
    • Hedgehogs can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean.
    • These germs can easily spread to their bodies, habitats, toys, bedding, and anything in the area where they live. People become sick after they touch hedgehogs or anything in their habitats.
  • Wash your hands
    • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a hedgehog or cleaning its habitat. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
  • Play safely
    • Don’t kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.
    • Don’t let hedgehogs roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens.
  • Clean habitats, toys, and supplies outside the house when possible. Avoid cleaning these items in the kitchen or any other location where food is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Pick the right pet for your family. Children under 5 years old, adults over 65, or people with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk for serious illness. Households with these individuals might consider a different pet.
  • Hedgehog breeders, pet stores, or others that sell or display hedgehogs should provide educational materials to employees and customers.

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