Two months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised people not to "kiss" or cuddle the hedgehogs for an outbreak of salmonella, the Federal Health Office announced that six more people in three other states, including Virginia Ill be in contact with the prickly pets. By the end of Friday, 17 people across the country had been infected with a Salmonella typhimurium strain, stating that the CDC was warned for the first time in January that it could be linked to domestic hedgehogs.
Nobody died, but two people were hospitalized.
"Epidemiological and laboratory studies indicate that contact with hedgehogs is the most likely cause of this outbreak," the CDC said in an investigation notice.
In Virginia, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors legalized the Household Hedgehog in January ̵
It does not appear that the recent legalization of hedgehogs for pets in Fairfax County is related to the two US-based cases due to information from Virginia Department of Health.
Both sick people lived in southwestern Virginia, and "one definitely had a hedgehog exposure," said Maribeth Brewster, a spokeswoman for the department.
"Washing your hands after handling these types of pets and all pets can reduce the likelihood of disease transmission," she added.
Other states where people with Salmonella have become ill include Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
The largest number of cases come with three cases from Minnesota and Missouri.
Elaine Becker, who over the years has looked after more than 100 hedgehogs through her work at Local Anim. All rescue workers in Roanoke, Virginia, said that hedgehog pets have become fashionable. People are in love with the cute creatures, but do not know how to take care of them. Household hedgehogs are usually in cages and walk on wheels, where shit can get stuck at their feet, she said. Pet owners should clean the hedgehog cages weekly and pick up the feces daily – preferably with gloves to avoid getting sick.
"After touching an animal or raw food, wash your hands," said Becker, also a member of the Hedgehog Welfare Society and International Hedgehog Association. "You would not let your child play with raw chicken and then put your hands in your mouth."
Hedgehogs are so popular that many have their own social media accounts. The increasing demand for hedgehogs has also recently led to some jurisdictions overturning bans that they consider to be pets.
Officials identified the salmonella strain in the recent outbreak after taking samples from eight hedgehogs in Minnesota, including three who were in the homes of Iowa, two people who fell ill. Most of the sufferers are apparently small children, according to the CDC.
Of the respondents, 13 out of 15 said they had contact with a hedgehog before they fell ill, but the CDC stated that it had not been identified as a general supplier who could be the source of the outbreak.
"Hedgehogs can carry salmonella in their feces while appearing healthy and clean," warned the CDC.
But some long-time lovers of pincushion epitomize the recent CDC hedgehog warning is Hogwash.
Train Standing Bear, who has cared for more than 500 hedgehogs in 20 years through his Colorado-based rescue, reaffirms the CDC's recent warning that the agency issued a warning in 2012 CDC reported 20 cases of salmonella – including one death – In eight states where there was a hedgehog in the house of someone who got sick.
Standing Bear said the hedgehog-related illness could be statistically random and not deter people from behaving responsibly as a pet.
Becker said the recent CDC warning unfairly highlights the hedgehogs. Many pets, such as turtles and birds, can carry salmonella, said Becker. If you follow hygiene rules and investigate before buying a hedgehog – or any pet – you can avoid problems.
"They can make wonderful pets, but they are not for everyone," Becker said. "If you can not handle the shit and give them mealworms, get yourself a stuffed animal."
This article was written by Lynh Bui, a Washington Post reporter.