Pet hedgehogs linked to salmonella outbreak

Mari A. Schaefer
The Philadelphia Inquirer

You can now add those adorable little hedgehogs to the list of pets that can give your family health problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium in 11 infected people, including six children under age 12, from eight states. Ten of the victims reportedly handled the spiky mammals.

One person has been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths attributed to the outbreak.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can result in diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after exposure. The illness can last four to seven days. Those most vulnerable are children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years and people with weakened immune systems.

About 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths are linked to salmonella in the United States every year, the CDC estimates.

Though salmonella infections are frequently traced back to consumption of foods such as meat, dairy and even produce, the bacteria also has traveled to people via exposure to backyard chickens, reptiles, ducklings and birds.

The germs from the hedgehogs were likely shed in their droppings, which can contaminate their bodies, cages, toys and bedding.

The CDC suggests that pet owners keep the critters out of the kitchen or anywhere food is prepared and not to let them roam freely in the home.

Whatever you do when you play with hedgehogs, don’t kiss, snuggle or hold them close to your face, the CDC warns. And wash your hands after touching them. Always.