Hedgehogs To Blame In Latest Salmonella Outbreak

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Less than a week after the CDC warned of a salmonella outbreak due to contaminated ground beef, a new outbreak is being investigated due to contact with pet hedgehogs. The CDC is working with officials from the USDA´s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and state health departments to investigate the latest outbreak.

The Salmonella typhimurium outbreak is relatively rare, with only one or two cases reported annually since 2002. However, in 2011 case counts rose to 14. Case counts of this particular strain, reported via CDC’s PulseNet (a national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance), increased again in 2012 to 18 cases, and two additional cases so far in 2013.

Of the outbreaks since the beginning of 2012, eight states have been affected. State health officials in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon have all reported one case. Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio have all seen three cases apiece, and Washington has seen the most with seven.

According to information in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Feb. 1), four patients have been hospitalized from S. typhimurium, and one death has been associated with the outbreak. Fourteen out of 15 reported cases have been directly associated to handling a pet hedgehog during the week before onset of illness.

Interestingly, many of the infected hedgehogs were purchased from USDA-APHIS-licensed breeders. The CDC, USDA-APHIS and state health departments are now working to trace the illness back to see if there may have been other contaminated hedgehogs sold as pets.

Although the most common form of salmonella poisoning comes from contaminated foods, “contact with infected animals and their environments also can cause illness,” according to the CDC. The infection “can result from direct contact with hedgehogs during routine care and indirect transmission through contact with objects “¦ that come in contact with infected hedgehogs.”

The CDC recommends anyone who has a pet hedgehog to wash hands with soap and water after handling the animal, especially before handling food or drinks, to reduce chance of infection. Also, hedgehog cages, food and water dishes, and other objects associated with the pet should be cleaned outdoors to avoid contamination of other indoor surfaces.

The CDC said that “detailed safe handling instructions for hedgehogs should be provided at the point of sale, and owners should ensure that anyone in direct or indirect contact with hedgehogs is aware of proper precautions to prevent Salmonella transmission.”

Hedgehogs are not the only animal that can carry salmonella. Frogs, turtles, chickens, ducks, and hamsters have all been linked to salmonella outbreaks in the past by the CDC.

For more information on the latest outbreak visit the CDC´s website here.