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

Stay away from these states if you don’t want Salmonella!

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. 



About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on October 21, 2012, in Danger danger danger!, Kill the wabbit!. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. So adorable! Would this outbreak be considered epidemic? Or maybe sporadic? Just curious from looking at the map.

    • Salmonella infections in the US are considered an endemic disease; there are many thousands of cases annually, due to a variety of transmissions routes (mainly food borne.) This scenario would technically be considered an “outbreak” of an already existing disease, but I don’t think that epidemiologists would deem the low number discussed here as an “epidemic.”

  2. My daughter tells me that it is illegal to breed hedgehogs here in Pennsylvania. According to Hedgehog Central, Pennsylvania has been the site of an unfortunate political battle. Perhaps all BIO230 students should keep this in mind as you cast your votes next month!

  3. Hedgehogs made it into this week’s “Notes from the Field” with a photo! Possibly the cutest menace of all?
    I’m glad hedgehogs are illegal in PA. I would have a hard time refraining from cuddling a hedgehog, dyeing it blue, and teaching it to roll around and collect coins.

    • Rest assured, it is only illegal to have hedgehogs for breeding purposes in Pennsylvania. You can still own hedgehogs, but you need to bring them across state lines. However, since it is illegal to breed hedgehogs, only female hedgehogs are allowed in Pennsylvania. That is a foolproof plan, that in no way could ever go wrong.

%d bloggers like this: