The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced an investigation into the first Salmonella outbreak of 2019.
On Friday, January 25, 2019, the agency announced several states had detected Salmonella infections linked to contact with pet hedgehogs.
As of January 23, 2019, a total of 11 cases of Salmonella Typhimurium were reported across 8 states. Onset of illness dates range from October 22 through December 25, 2018. The afflicted, 45% of whom are female, range in age from 2 to 28 years with a reported median age of 12. No deaths have been reported at this time, but 1 individual has been hospitalized.
As part of the epidemiologic investigation, health officials asked ill individuals about exposures to animals in the week prior to falling ill. In total, 10 of the 11 individuals (91%) reported having contact with a hedgehog prior to falling ill. It does not appear the hedgehogs came from a common supplier, as the individuals purchased the animals from various sources including breeders, pet stores, and from the internet.
The outbreak strain was identified in samples collected from 3 pet hedgehogs in the home of 2 ill individuals in Minnesota.
The CDC emphasizes that it should be known that hedgehogs carry Salmonella germs, even though they may appear healthy. Salmonella germs can be spread through contact with the pets and any surfaces they touch.
Hedgehogs are not the first animals to be implicated in transmitting Salmonella to humans. In 2018, the CDC announced an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections linked to pet guinea pigs. Additionally, more than 70 Salmonella outbreaks linked to contact with live poultry occurred between 2000-2017, resulting in 4794 cases.
In this case, the CDC advises pet owners to clean materials that come in contact with the hedgehog in a space that is not used for food preparation, serving, or eating. Hedgehog pet owners should avoid any face or mouth contact with the animals. Individuals should also wash their hands following any contact with their pet, including touching, feeding, or caring for the hedgehog.
Salmonella can cause symptoms that include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours. The illness usually persists for 4 to 7 days and most individuals recover without treatment. Young children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to complications, which can lead to hospitalization.
Health care providers who are living in areas affected by the outbreak should be cognizant of these symptoms and consider Salmonella as a potential diagnosis if a patient presents with them.
This is an ongoing investigation and the CDC will provide updates as more information becomes available.
For the most recent case counts in the Salmonella Typhimurium, check out the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.