FDA: Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pet Hedgehogs

  • Since the last update on March 29, 2019, illnesses in an additional 10 people and six states have been added to this investigation.
  • Twenty-seven people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 17 states.
    • Two people were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
    • Forty-two percent are children aged 12 or younger.
  • Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with pet hedgehogs is the likely source of this outbreak.
    • In interviews, 18 (90%) of 20 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 10 hedgehogs in Minnesota, including 5 hedgehogs from the homes of five ill patients.

Advice to Pet Owners and Retailers

  • 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 over 65, 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

  • 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

May 30 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 May 30, 2019, 27 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 17 states, including 1 case in Oregon. 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 April 8, 2019. Ill people range in age from 2 to 95 years, with a median age of 14 years. Fifty-five percent are female. Of 17 people with information available, 2 (12%) 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 20 people interviewed, 18 (90%) 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 10 hedgehogs in Minnesota, including 5 hedgehogs from the homes of five 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.

Updated: 2019-05-30 07:00:00

Source: FDA