Multistate salmonella outbreak linked to hedgehogs increases to 20 cases

The outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium, in which federal health officials first started investigating in September 2012, has expanded to eight states and has sickened at least 20 people, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outbreak investigation update Jan. 31.

HedgehogPublic domain photo/Amraam 7 at the wikipedia project

Public domain photo/Amraam 7 at the wikipedia project

A total of 20 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 8 states. This is up from 16 persons in 7 states in early January.

According to the CDC, the breakdown of cases by state is as follows: Alabama (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (3), Minnesota (3), Ohio (3), Oregon (1), and Washington (7).

At least four people required hospitalization for their illness and one fatality was reported linked to this outbreak. Nearly half of the cases were in children 10 years and younger.

The investigation has revealed the source of the outbreak is 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 conducting traceback investigations of hedgehogs purchased from USDA-licensed breeders 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, or supplements 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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