Eleven people across eight states were infected with the bacteria Salmonella typhimurium. The cause? Their pet hedgehogs.
An infection with salmonella is called salmonellosis and causes fevers, diarrhea, cramps and vomiting. Most humans are exposed when they eat contaminated food, but exposure to infected animal droppings can also cause infection.
A disease that can be transferred from animals to humans, such as salmonellosis, is called zoonotic. Most animals, if infected with salmonella will display symptoms of their own, similar to the human symptoms. Luckily, this disease is rare in cats and dogs due to their strong immune systems. Unluckily, many animals can carry salmonella without displaying any symptoms, putting their owners at risk of contracting it.
Reptiles and amphibians commonly carry salmonella while remaining completely healthy, so extreme care must be taken to washing hands after handling these pets. Since Salmonella can also infect surfaces it comes into contact with, care needs to be given to keeping these pets away from eating areas and thoroughly washing their enclosures with antibacterial cleaners.
Hedgehogs can also remain perfectly healthy while carrying Salmonella, so CDC officials are recommending they not be brought close to owner’s faces, nor allowed to roam in eating areas. While it’s not known how these hedgehogs became infected with salmonella, their droppings also contain the bacteria, so care needs to be given to their method of disposal if further outbreaks are to be avoided.