Salmonella outbreak due to hedgehogs!
As part of my weekly review of the current threats to the health of BIO230 students, I located this article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailing a multistate outbreak of Salmonella attributable to pet hedgehogs. As of early September, a total of 14 individuals across 6 states have come down with illness. Three individuals required hospitalization, however none of the illness resulted in death. Analysis of the etiologic agent in the outbreak has indicated that the hedgehogs were purchased from multiple breeders in the various states, suggesting that this is not a sole-source outbreak like my last animal-Salmonella outbreak detailed here.
As part of their standard warnings to consumers, the CDC reiterates:
- wash your hands after handling hedgehogs or “anything where they live or roam”
- do not snuggle or kiss hedgehogs
- do nob bathe hedgehogs in the kitchen sink or in the bathroom
- be careful with children and hedgehogs
Some terminology clarification might be useful at this point. Although the Salmonella outbreak in this case is due to the presence of an animal reservoir and Salmonella species are part of the intestinal flora of animals, I don’t think I would strictly term this outbreak as a zoonosis, because the disease salmonellosis may be acquired from a number of different sources including from infected humans. It would really be much better defined as an environmentally acquired disease. However, since no concrete link exists at this point between the infected hedgehogs, it may be safe to assume that hedgehogs can carry Salmonella as part of their normal microbial flora, and that the outbreak was not due to hedgehogs becoming carriers due to a single infection source.