Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pet Hedgehogs

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Posted August 1, 2019 at 4:00 PM ET

CDC and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet hedgehogs. 

Latest Outbreak Information
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At A Glance
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  • Since the last update on May 30, 2019, an additional 20 ill people have been reported in this outbreak.
  • A total of 47 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 21 states.
    • Eight people were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
  • Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with pet hedgehogs is the likely source of this outbreak.
    • In interviews, 26 (74%) of 35 ill people reported contact with a hedgehog.
    • A common source of hedgehogs has not been identified.
  • The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from hedgehogs in Minnesota and Oregon, including hedgehogs from the homes of ill patients.
Advice to Pet Owners and Retailers
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  • 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. People more likely to get a serious illness are children younger than 5 years, adults 65 and older, and people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness. 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.
Symptoms of Salmonella Infection
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  • 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.
  • People more likely to get a serious illness are children younger than 5 years, adults 65 and older, and people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
  • For more information, see the CDC Salmonella website.
Investigation Details

August 1, 2019

CDC and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections linked to contact with pet hedgehogs.

As of July 31, 2019, a total of 47 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 21 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, 2018 to July 6, 2019. Ill people range in age from 2 to 95 years, with a median age of 17 years. Sixty-seven percent are female. Of 30 people with information available, 8 (27%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) was performed on 34 isolates from 27 ill people and 7 animals. Analysis of WGS did not predict antibiotic resistance in isolates from 26 people and 7 animals. One isolate from an ill person had predicted resistance to ampicillin. Testing of 8 clinical isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing methods by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) showed no resistance. If antibiotics are needed, this resistance profile should not affect the choice of antibiotic used to treat most people.

Investigation of the Outbreak

In interviews, ill people answered questions about animal contact in the week before they became ill. Of 35 people interviewed, 26 (74%) 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 11 hedgehogs in Minnesota and Oregon, including 6 hedgehogs from the homes of six ill patients. A common source 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.

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