Here’s one thing that you should probably ask before you kiss or snuggle with someone. Are you a hedgehog?
That’s because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning about hedgehogs. Hedgehogs seem to be the source of a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that has so far affected at least 11 people in eight states, resulting in one hospitalization but so far no deaths. Ten (91%) of the 11 people who had become ill had “reported contact with a hedgehog.” This presumably meant physical contact and not just phone, email, or social media contact with the hedgehog.
Last year was a particularly bad year for Salmonella outbreaks, as the 2018 CDC list included 18 different outbreaks. Will 2019 be any better? Don’t hedgehog your bets just yet. Looks like our little spiny mammal friends are the culprits for the first new Salmonella outbreak of 2019. Testing has found S. Typhimurium in three hedgehogs in two homes in Minnesota. While the bacteria typically causes 4 to 7 days of diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps in humans, hedgehogs can still look quite clean and healthy even when carrying Salmonella in their poop. This is yet another reason why you shouldn’t play with hedgehog poop.
The CDC announcement also included the following two very specific warnings about hedgehogs:
- “Don’t kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.”
- “Don’t let hedgehogs roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchens.”
Thus, if you are relying on your hedgehog to cook your dinner, you may want to reconsider your living arrangements.
You should also wash your hands frequently and thoroughly when handling your hedgehog. Don’t worry, hedgehogs won’t take this personally because they are hedgehogs and may be too busy pursuing melons, grass roots, berries, insects, snails, frogs, toads, snakes, and other critters to even notice your hand hygiene. Make sure that you carefully clean anything that touches your hedgehog as well.
If you are a child who is younger than 5 years old, an adult who is older than 65 years old, or someone with a weakened immune system, you may not even want to have a hedgehog as a friend. Such conditions could make you more likely to suffer severe illness from a Salmonella infection. Severe illness can result when the bacteria spreads from your intestines into your bloodstream and to the rest of your body. In some cases, such severe illness can even result in death.
But if you are the right age and relatively healthy, you can still have a hedgehog as a friend. Just take the proper precautions and don’t get too close. There are other ways to show your affection to your hedgehog that don’t necessarily involve your face such as sending a nice card or a nicely worded non-sarcastic compliment.