Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pet Hedgehogs

Illustration with a microscope and text reading Investigation Notice

Posted September 30, 2020 at 3:00 PM ET

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

Latest Outbreak Information
Illustration of a megaphone.

At A Glance
Photo of a hedgehog.
  • As of September 22, 2020, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 17 states.
    • Five 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, 16 (70%) of 23 ill people reported contact with a hedgehog.
    • The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from a hedgehog in the home of an ill person in New York.
    • Ill people reported buying hedgehogs from various sources, including pet stores, breeders, or online stores. A common source of hedgehogs has not been identified.
Advice to Pet Owners and Retailers
Illustration of a clipboard with check marks on it.

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 can become sick after they touch hedgehogs or anything in their habitats and then touch their face or mouth.

Take these steps to stay healthy around hedgehogs:

  • 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. 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, served, or stored, such as kitchens or dining rooms.
  • Keep things clean
    • 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
    • Hedgehogs and other small pets are not recommended for children under 5 years old, adults aged 65 and older, or people with weakened immune systems because they are at greater risk for serious illness from germs that pets can carry.
    • Hedgehog breeders, pet stores, or others that sell or display hedgehogs should provide educational materials to customers interested in purchasing a hedgehog and to employees who handle these animals.
Symptoms of Salmonella Infection
Illustration of a person with stomach pain.

  • Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 6 hours to 6 days after being exposed to the bacteria.
  • The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
  • In some people, the illness 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.
  • Children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
Investigation Details

September 30, 2020

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 and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using a standardized laboratory and data analysis method called whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these sequences that are used to identify possible outbreaks. WGS gives investigators detailed information about the bacteria causing illness. In this investigation, WGS showed that bacteria isolated from ill people were closely related genetically. This means that people in this outbreak are more likely to share a common source of infection.

As of September 22, 2020, a total of 32 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 17 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 April 12, 2020 to August 11, 2020. Ill people range in age from less than 1 to 61 years, with a median age of 10 years. Fifty-six percent are female. Of 27 people with information available, 5 (19%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

WGS analysis of 19 bacterial isolates from ill people did not predict any antibiotic resistance. Standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) of one isolate also showed no resistance.

Investigation of the Outbreak

In interviews, people answered questions about animal contact in the week before they became ill. Of 23 people interviewed, 16 (70%) reported contact with hedgehogs before becoming ill. Ill people reported buying hedgehogs from various sources, including pet stores, breeders, and online stores.

The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from a hedgehog from the home of an ill person in New York. A single, common source of hedgehogs has not been identified.

This outbreak strain is the same as outbreak strains linked to hedgehogs in 2012 and in 2019.

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.