CDC: Beware Pet Hedgehogs Responsible for Salmonella Outbreak

First Posted: Jan 31, 2013 03:23 PM EST

They're cute, adorable, and now linked to a salmonella outbreak. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has discussed the unseen danger that pet hedgehogs carry.

Although most people contract salmonella from tainted foods, such as lettuce or meat, contact with infected animals and their environments can also cause illness.

The new outbreak in question involves an especially rare strain of salmonella called Salmonella Typhimurium, according to the CDC. Usually there are only one or two cases of illness involving this strain reported annually across the U.S. In 2011, however, the CDC began getting many more reports--there had to be a reason.

The CDC found that a total of 20 people were affected by the outbreak from across eight different states, including Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and Washington. Most of the patients were young, and about half of them were under 10 years old. One patient died, and four required hospitalization.

The culprit for this outbreak turned out to be hedgehogs. In total, 14 out of 15 of the patients reported that they had had direct or indirect contact with a hedgehog during the week before becoming sick. Some specifically said that they had contact with African Pygmy hedgehogs.

The hedgehogs that the patients mentioned were all purchased from breeders, and some of them were even licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Currently, the USDA and CDC are investigating the incidents to trace back to other hedgehogs bought from the same breeders.

If you have a hedgehog, remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling your pet--especially before eating or drinking. Hedgehog cages and other care equipment should be cleaned outside of the home.

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