Hedgehogs, those adorable spiky little insect-eating rodents, have now been added to a growing list of household pets now linked to salmonella typhimurim poisoning including baby chicks, ducklings, turtles, frogs, toads, snakes, and lizards.
Although rare, this strain can prove deadly and is responsible for the death of one elderly man in Spokane County, WA, where four other people have been hospitalized since December 2011. According to the CDC, Washington State leads has reported the most cases of hedgehog –connected illnesses (7), followed by Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio (3 cases each), as well as infections seen in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon.
Salmonella Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. They develop 12 to 72 hours after infection, and the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. But diarrhea and dehydration may be so severe that it is necessary to go to the hospital. In addition, a small number of people who are infected with salmonellosis develop Reiter's syndrome, a disease that can last for months or years and can lead to chronic arthritis. Those with the highest risk include older adults, infants, and those who have impaired immune systems are at highest risk.
As a result, the CDC recommends washing your hands after handling hedgehogs and making sure that all cages and equipment as cleaned thoroughly.
Note: Although hedgehogs are native to Western Europe, New Zealand and elsewhere in the world, most of the pets sold here are bred in the US.