February 7, 2013

Salmonella Outbreak Associated With Hedgehogs

Pets can be a man’s best friend. Among their many benefits, they bring you love, comfort, and a listening ear. However, it’s also important to be wary of the possible illnesses they can spread if pets are not taken care of correctly. In particular, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that outbreaks of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections in a number of states in the country have been found to be traced to hedgehogs.

As reported by redOrbit and according to the CDC, since Jan. 31st, 20 individuals have been infected by the Salmonella outbreak. The cases have been reported from eight states, including Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, and Washington. The ages of individuals infected range from less than one year old to 91 years of age. The investigation on the outbreak has focused on interviews with the infected individuals, particularly on their interaction with animals and food prior to becoming sick. 14 of the 15 people who became ill noted that they had contact with their hedgehogs or the environment of their hedgehogs prior to becoming ill. The investigators will continue to study the type and source of hedgehogs that might have led to the outbreak. In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) Animal Care is conducting an investigation of hedgehogs that were bought from USDA-licensed breeders.

The CDC reports that there are a number of signs and symptoms that can signal if a person has been infected with Salmonella bacteria. 12 to 72 hours after infection, individuals would display symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Infants, older adults, and those who have weaker immune systems are particularly susceptible to becoming sick following a Salmonella infection.

For those who are concerned about the outbreak, the CDC provides a number of tips for pet owners. For one, they caution pet owners to be wary of hedgehogs that may be carrying human Salmonella infection; the hedgehog may be carrying bacteria, but appear to be healthy and clean with no signs of illness. Salmonella bacteria can easily contaminate anything near where hedgehogs live or move around, as the salmonella bacteria are shed from the animal’s droppings.

As such, it is important for pet owners to remember to wash hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with water and soap immediately after touching a hedgehog or interacting with an environment where a hedgehog lives or roams. Hand washing is especially necessary prior to preparing, serving, or eating any food, drinks, or baby bottles. If there is no soap or water available, hand sanitizers can be used instead until there are enough resources to wash hands with soap and water.

In terms of handling hedgehogs, it’s important to remember to not let the animals move close to any space where food is prepared, served or stored. Hedgehogs should also not be snuggled or kissed. If a hedgehog appears to have diarrhea, it is essential to take the animal to a veterinarian to have a checkup.

To learn more about the issue, visit the CDC’s website for up-to-date resources.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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