CDC Finds More Evidence Linking Multi-State Salmonella Outbreak to Pet Hedgehogs

13 of the 17 individuals infected by this Salmonella strain handled hedgehogs shortly before becoming ill

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If you have a pet hedgehog, put the prickly guy down and read this.

In January, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a warning to hedgehog owners across the country, cautioning them not to get too cozy with their pets. The reason: the CDC suspected that close contact with hedgehogs could be the cause of a multi-state salmonella outbreak.

At the time, 11 people across eight states — Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming — had become infected with Salmonella Typhimurium and the CDC found that 10 of those individuals came in contact with a hedgehog shortly before becoming ill.

The CDC released an update to their initial warning about this outbreak on March 29. According to the CDC, an “additional six people and three states [Iowa, Washington and Virginia] have been added to this investigation.” This brings the total to 17 cases from 11 states for this outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence continues to point to hedgehogs as the source of this outbreak. The CDC has interviewed 15 of the infected individuals and found that 13 had close contact with a hedgehog shortly before becoming sick. Additionally, the CDC found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium that infected these 17 individuals “was identified in samples collected from eight hedgehogs in Minnesota, including three hedgehogs from two ill patients’ homes.”

No common supplier of the hedgehogs has been identified.

The CDC used DNA fingerprinting on the Salmonella strain found in each infected individuals to identify the outbreak strain, and found that the “Salmonella from ill people in this outbreak” was “closely related genetically,” which means it is likely that the infections all have a common source.

The CDC is urging hedgehog owners to be careful with how they handle their pets, since the supplier of the hedgehogs linked to this outbreak strain has not been identified and because any hedgehog can carry Salmonella.

Public health investigators advise hedgehog owners to always wash their hands after handling their pets and to keep their hedgehogs and their hedgehog’s habitat clean, since Salmonella can be picked up by touching an Salmonella-carrying hedgehog or coming in contact with anything in their habitat. The CDC also advises that hedgehog owners refrain from kissing on snuggling the animals and prohibit their pets from roaming freely around the house, especially in areas where food is consumed or prepared.

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include “diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria,” reports the CDC. For many, an infection last 4 to 7 days and does no require professional treatment. In some cases, severe diarrhea and other complications may lead to hospitalization. In rare cases, an infection can lead to death.

Children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness from and Salmonella infection.

Hedgehogs aren’t the only animals linked to Salmonella, the CDC has also issued warnings for pet chickens.

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