As of Jan. 23, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Maine, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Texas have reported outbreaks.
The ages of the affected range from two to 28 years old and the infections were reported to have started in Oct. 2018. The same Salmonella strain was found in the homes of infected individuals who have hedgehogs as pets.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 that eight states have reported salmonella outbreaks. They also stated that laboratory and epidemiological evidence shows the likely source of the outbreak is pet hedgehogs. Eleven people have been diagnosed with Salmonella typhimurium, and they all confirmed that they had contact with a hedgehog prior to becoming sick.
No deaths have been reported with this outbreak, but there has been one hospitalization. In 2013, there was a death related to Salmonella from hedgehogs.
The CDC explains that even though a hedgehog may appear clean and healthy, they can carry Salmonella in their excrement. The germs can be spread to their bedding habitats, toys, and their bodies fur. People may become ill after they touch the hedgehogs or anything they have come in contact with.
The Health Agency has warned people not to snuggle or kiss their hedgehogs; doing so can spread Salmonella to the individual’s mouth and face.
The agency also warns against letting hedgehogs enter areas where food is stored or prepared.
No link between the infected hedgehogs has been identified. Victims of the outbreak reported buying their hedgehog from different sources, including breeders, on the internet or in pet stores. The CDC warned hedgehogs could infect people with salmonella no matter where they were purchased.
The Washington Post reported hedgehogs were legalized as household pets last week in Fairfax County, Virginia. They remain banned in Washington, New York City, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Georgia, and California.
The CDC says there are approximately 1.2 million cases of Salmonella in the United States each year causing 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths. The disease is most commonly found in children. People with compromised immune systems, AIDS, babies, and older adults are more likely to be afflicted with severe cases of the disease.
The CDC advises if an individual is in a high-risk group for Salmonella, they should consider not keeping a hedgehog as a pet.
Symptoms of Salmonella include abdominal cramps, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, which usually develop 12 to 72 hours after exposure. It usually resolves within 4 to 7 days, but in more severe cases could last weeks. Treatment for the disease is generally rest and fluids. Severe cases may require antibiotics or IV fluids.
The CDC has also issued similar warnings for other animals that may carry Salmonella such as turtles and chickens. They also advise if you choose to pick up an animal that may be prone to Salmonella, one should wash their hands afterward.