A trend in keeping African pygmy hedgehogs, which are about the size of hamsters, as pets is the likely driver of a multi-state Salmonella outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fourteen people in six states have become ill after having contact with hedgehogs. Three people have been hospitalized.
Most of the case patients interviewed so far specifically mentioned contact with the tiny animals in the week before becoming ill. And most of them are children under the age of 10. By state the case count is as follows: Alabama (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (3), Minnesota (2), Ohio (2), and Washington (5).
The CDC is collaborating with state public health and agriculture officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Care Program (USDA-APHIS-AC) to investigate this outbreak of a rare strain of SalmonellaTyphimurium. Those who became ill purchase the hedgehogs from multiple breeders in different states.
Salmonella is a bacteria that causes illness when ingested. Hedgehogs and other animals shed these germs in their droppings which can contaminate their bodies spreading the germs where they live and roam. Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water right after touching hedgehogs or anything they touched is the best way to prevent illness. The CDC recommends that adults supervise hand washing for young children.
Symptoms of Salmonella include abdominal cramps diarrhea and fever which usually develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure and last up to a week. Anyone who develops these symptoms after handling a hedgehog should see a health care provider.