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Animal owners beware: do not kiss this hedgehog



Beware of the hedgehog, because it could give you salmonella.

Hedgehogs have sickened two Minnesotans and nine others nationwide, as reported last week by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The cases prompted the federal health authorities to warn animal owners to exercise caution when handling the bristly mammals and then to wash their hands thoroughly.

This is the second documented outbreak of Salmonella related to hedgehogs. including eight who had to be treated in hospital and one person who died.

The strain responsible for the outbreak was identified using the laboratory of the Minnesota Health Department in St. Paul. It collected samples of three hedgehogs in two Minnesota homes where people became ill.

The current outbreak, which began in October, has sent a person to the hospital.

With many outbreaks, the animals show no signs of illness and they appear to be clean. However, their feces contain salmonella bacteria, which then spread to the body, bedding, toys and the human pet owners.

No matter how cute the pets may look, the CDC warns: "Do not kiss or cuddle hedgehogs." But even if you touch an infected hedgehog, it can lead to an infection of humans. Kitchen areas should also be banned as the bacteria can remain on surfaces where food is prepared.

People should wash their hands when handling animals, and adults should ensure that children wash their hands properly, Dr. Public health veterinarian in the health department.

"We do not want to deter pet ownership at all," she said. "We just want people to be careful."

Hedgehogs are not the only pets known as salmonella sources. In recent years, the CDC has reported outbreaks associated with guinea pigs, turtles, geckos, bearded dragons and even frozen rodents as animal feed.

There were also numerous outbreaks associated with backyard poultry, including chickens and ducks. The last outbreak last year has made 334 nationwide sick, including 24 in Minnesota.

Some animals, such as reptiles, naturally carry salmonella bacteria in their intestines, while others eventually become infected.

"We do not know if hedgehogs are natural salmonella carriers or if they are eventually exposed to salmonella and pass it on from one to another," Scheftel said.

Food safety lawyer Ryan Osterholm of Pritzker Hageman in Minneapolis said he has two hedgehogs as a child who tested positive for salmonella, even though he never got sick.

He said new, more sophisticated tests would help investigators identify outbreaks caused by food and animal wildlife so they could benefit "At some point these hedgehogs were eventually from a common breeder," he said.

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps for up to three days after contact with bacteria, with most patients recovering within a week but it can lead to complications, especially in young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune system.

Regardless, the Minnesota Agriculture Department warned Monday before a Salmonella warning in some lots of raw turkey's pet food sold by Woody's Pet Food Deli. The product, which is marketed as cat and dog food, has made a person in the state sick, according to a study by the Ministry of Health. Both authorities said that raw meat should not be fed to pets.

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