Salmonella Case in Spokane Linked to Contact with Hedgehog

Jan 31, 2013

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539
SPOKANE, Wash. – Jan 31, 2013 – Seven cases of Salmonella infection in Washington residents have been linked to a national outbreak traced to contact with hedgehogs. Unfortunately the infection claimed the life of one Spokane resident—the first nationally reported death linked to the outbreak. The male resident was in his 90s.
Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) in this investigation.
"It is heartbreaking that a life has been lost associated with something as seemingly harmless as a pet and we certainly want to express our sympathies to this family," said SRHD health officer Dr. Joel McCullough. "Unfortunately, many kinds of animals can shed Salmonella bacteria. This is an important opportunity to talk about ways to prevent infection when handling and caring for any animal.”
Pet hedgehogs are one of several animals that can carry Salmonella and other diseases, even when the animals do not appear to be sick. People can be infected during routine care for their pet hedgehogs, which can shed bacteria that can contaminate cages, toys, bedding or household surfaces. Even without touching a hedgehog, people can be infected by touching objects contaminated by infected hedgehogs.
SRHD recommends that hedgehog owners make sure to wash hands with soap and water after handling the animals and their cages, toys, bedding, water bottles, food, and any other materials used in their care. Adults should supervise young children handling these pets and ensure their hand washing afterward. In addition, be sure to clean any surfaces potentially contaminated by hedgehogs. Hedgehog owners should also tell friends and family who have contact with their pet about the risk of Salmonella and make sure they also wash their hands after touching.
The seven Salmonella illnesses within Washington state linked to exposure to hedgehogs, including the one case in Spokane County that resulted in death, were reported to DOH over the past year. Tests have shown that the specific type of Salmonella found in these casesmatches that found in 20 people from seven other states across the country—according to CDC, the hedgehogs were purchased from various hedgehog breeders in several states, many of whom were USDA-APHIS licensed. The hedgehog associated with the local death was purchased in Spokane County.
Salmonellosis symptoms can include severe diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal discomfort, and occasionally vomiting; symptoms may appear one to three days after exposure. Infections can last from several days to months. The illness can be treated, though most people recover on their own, without medications.
Young children, elderly adults, and people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk for severe illness.
Before this year, DOH reported one case of Salmonella related to hedgehogs in 2005.
For more information, visit DOH’s Salmonella illness prevention page or CDC’s page specific to the outbreak. More information can also be found at Spokane Regional Health District’s website also offers comprehensive, updated information about the health district and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.