Don’t Kiss Your Pet Hedgehogs, C.D.C. Warns

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning hedgehog owners to not kiss their small, spiky little pets.

According to the New York Times, the CDC has reported that over the last four months 11 people from eight states have been infected with a particular strain of salmonella and all but one of those say that they have had contact with a hedgehog.

The CDC warned that owners or anyone else should not kiss or snuggle the cute spiky animals because it can spread salmonella germs to one’s face and mouth and make you sick.

According to the CDC, cases and numbers of salmonella infections have been reported in the following states: Missouri, 3; Minnesota, 2;  and in Colorado, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming. Only one person has been hospitalized and no one has died.

Salmonella can be picked up by the cute little critters from contaminated food or according to the CDC website the salmonella bacteria can live in their intestines which can be picked up from their mothers before they are born.

The little hedgehog may not show any signs of the bacterial sickness, but they can spread it through their droppings as well as through their toys and bedding. When humans touch them, they come into contact with the salmonella bacteria.

There has been salmonella outbreak related to pet hedgehogs before. Twenty-six people were infected with the same bacteria strain of Salmonella typhimurium then, as now, from December to April, 2013. During that time frame, eight people were hospitalized and one person died from that outbreak. The majority of cases reported contact with hedgehogs by the people infected.

“The fact that hedgehogs are a risk is not new,” said Jane Sykes, a professor of small animal internal medicine at the University of California, Davis. “But we don’t know how common the shedding of salmonella is among hedgehogs specifically.”

The symptoms from the salmonella bacterial infection are diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps and typically ends in four to seven days.  However, people with compromising immune systems may require hospitalization.

It is recommended that pet owners always wash their hands after handling their hedgehog pets or their toys or after cleaning their kennels.  It is also recommended that foods for the little critters be disposed of after two hours. Hedgehog toys and equipment should not be cleaned in the kitchen area as well.

It is important to keep in mind that hedgehogs aren’t the only animals that can spread the salmonella disease. Pet reptiles, pet mice, frogs, turtles, bearded dragons, geckoes, and guinea pigs can put pet owners at risk.