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Salmonella outbreak linked to hedgehogs grows to 23 cases

The outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium, in which federal health officials first started investigating in September 2012, has expanded to nine states and has sickened at least 23 people, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outbreak investigation update April 16.

Persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, by State Image/CDC

Persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, by State
Image/CDC

This total is up from 20 cases as reported in late January.

Since the last update on January 31, 3 new cases have been reported from Idaho (1) and Ohio (2).

The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Idaho (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (3), Minnesota (3), Ohio (5), Oregon (1), and Washington (7).

One death associated with Salmonella infection has been reported in Washington.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings have linked this outbreak of human Salmonella infections to contact with pet hedgehogs purchased from multiple hedgehog breeders in different states.

The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) Animal Care is currently assisting CDC to identify the sources of hedgehogs linked to ill persons.

Contact with hedgehogs can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Salmonella germs are shed in their droppings and can easily contaminate their bodies and anything in areas where these animals live and roam.

Salmonella is an organism, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The CDC offers the following advice to protect yourself and your children when handling hedgehogs:

Wash your hands:

• Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap right after touching hedgehogs or anything in the area where they live and roam. This includes after handling pet food and treats.
• Thorough hand washing is especially important before preparing, serving or eating food, drinks or preparing baby bottles. Also, always wash hands right after handling or cleaning up after your pets.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
• Adults should supervise young children when washing hands.

Practice safe handling of hedgehogs:

• Do not let hedgehogs in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.
• Do not snuggle or kiss hedgehogs, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around hedgehogs.
• Some hedgehogs may get ill from a Salmonella infection and can have diarrhea.
• If your hedgehog has diarrhea, see your pet’s veterinarian.

Clean up properly when handling hedgehogs:

• To prevent cross-contamination, do not bathe hedgehogs in the kitchen sink or in bathroom sinks or bathtubs. Hedgehogs should be bathed in a small plastic tub or bin that is dedicated for hedgehog use only.
• Clean any equipment or materials associated with caring for hedgehogs outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers, or items used for bathing.

Be careful with children and hedgehogs:

• Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.
• Children younger than 5 years of age should not be allowed to touch or eat pet food, treats, orsupplements and should be kept away from hedgehog feeding areas to prevent illness and injury.
Persons who think they might have become ill from contact with hedgehogs should consult their health care providers.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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