Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pet Hedgehogs
Posted March 29, 2019 at 11:15 AM ET
CDC and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet hedgehogs.
- Since the last update on January 25, 2019, an additional six people and three states have been added to this investigation.
- A total of 17 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 11 states.
- Two people were hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.
- Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with pet hedgehogs is the likely source of this outbreak.
- In interviews, 13 (87%) of 15 ill people reported contact with a hedgehog.
- A common supplier of hedgehogs in this outbreak has not been identified.
- The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from eight hedgehogs in Minnesota, including three hedgehogs from two ill patients’ homes.
- People who own or come in contact with hedgehogs should take steps to stay healthy around their pet.
- Hedgehogs can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings while appearing healthy and clean.
- These germs can easily spread to their bodies, habitats, toys, bedding, and anything in the area where they live. People become sick after they touch hedgehogs or anything in their habitats.
- Wash your hands
- Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching, feeding, or caring for a hedgehog or cleaning its habitat. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
- Play safely
- Don’t kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.
- Don’t let hedgehogs roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens.
- Clean habitats, toys, and supplies outside the house when possible. Avoid cleaning these items in the kitchen or any other location where food is prepared, served, or stored.
- Pick the right pet for your family. Children younger than 5 years, adults over 65, and people with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk for serious illness. Households with these people might consider a different pet.
- Hedgehog breeders, pet stores, or others that sell or display hedgehogs should provide educational materials to employees and customers.
- Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria.
- The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
- In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.
- In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
- Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65 years, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness.
- For more information, see the CDC Salmonella website.
March 29, 2019
CDC and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections linked to contact with pet hedgehogs.
Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet is the national subtyping network of public health laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives a more detailed DNA fingerprint than PFGE. WGS performed on Salmonella from ill people in this outbreak showed that they are closely related genetically. This means that the ill people are more likely to share a common source of infection.
As of March 27, 2019, 17 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 11 states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the map of reported cases page.
Illnesses started on dates from October 22, 2019 to March 1, 2019. Ill people range in age from 2 to 95 years, with a median age of 13 years. Fifty-three percent are female. Of 14 people with information available, 2 (14%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
In interviews, ill people answered questions about animal contact in the week before they became ill. Of 15 people interviewed, 13 (87%) reported contact with hedgehogs before becoming ill. Ill people reported buying hedgehogs from various sources, including pet stores, breeders, or online.
The outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium was identified in samples collected from eight hedgehogs in Minnesota, including three hedgehogs from two ill patients’ homes. A common supplier of hedgehogs has not been identified. Regardless of where hedgehogs are purchased, these animals can carry Salmonella germs that can make people sick. Hedgehog owners should always follow steps to stay healthy around their pet.
This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information becomes available.