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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet hedgehogs.
Eleven people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from eight states. One person has been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.
Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with pet hedgehogs is the likely source of this outbreak. In interviews, 10 (91%) of 11 ill people reported contact with a hedgehog.
A common supplier of hedgehogs in this outbreak has not been identified.
The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from three hedgehogs in two ill patients’ homes in Minnesota.
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.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body. In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness.