Stop snuggling hedgehogs, CDC urges amid salmonella outbreak

A woman handles a hedgehog on the first day of the Great Yorkshire Show near Harrogate in northern England on July 11, 2017. (OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — First, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said not to kiss or snuggle with your chickens; now, the agency is cautioning against PDA with pet hedgehogs.

They may be cute — if prickly — but lab tests in an ongoing investigation show that pet hedgehogs are probably to blame for a multistate salmonella outbreak.

Eleven people are infected in eight states, according to the CDC. There have been no reported deaths, but one person has been hospitalized. The illnesses started in October. Ten of the eleven infected patients said they had contact with a pet hedgehog before becoming sick.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include fever, diarrhea and stomach cramps, which can last four to seven days. Most people recover without treatment. Among patients who experience severe illness, the infection can, in rare cases, cause death if not treated promptly with antibiotics.

There are an estimated 1.2 million salmonella cases in the United States annually, and various foods are to blame for about 1 million of those illnesses, according to the CDC.

Even hedgehogs that look clean and healthy can carry salmonella germs, which show up in their droppings. You may keep their habitat clean, but the bacteria can easily spread to toys, bedding and nearly anywhere they roam.

Pet experts say hedgehogs should have room to roam, or they can become depressed or fat, but the CDC recommends against letting these pets wander freely in areas where you prepare food, such as the kitchen.

Cleaning their toys and supplies is also recommended, but also do this in the kitchen, where the germs can spread.

If you pick up a pet hedgehog, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

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