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CDC Officially Warns Against Kissing, Snuggling Hedgehogs

Due to a recent salmonella outbreak
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2019 1:57 PM CST
In this May 6, 2014 file photo hedgehog breeder and trainer Jennifer Crespo, of Gardner, Mass., holds a pet hedgehog at her home in Gardner.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

(Newser) – "Don't kiss or snuggle hedgehogs." That's the official warning from the CDC due to a salmonella outbreak, the New York Times reports. Eleven people across eight states have all been infected with the same strain of the bacteria, and 10 of those people said they'd had contact with a hedgehog. Officials have identified the strain of salmonella in at least two of the hedgehogs involved. In its warning, the CDC notes that getting too close to hedgehogs—which have recently become more popular as pets, the Washington Post reports—"can spread salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick." There are a variety of ways animals can pick up salmonella, including from their mothers before they're born or by eating contaminated food; the bacteria sometimes even lives naturally in their intestines. (Other pets, including reptiles, rodents, and frogs, have also been known to transmit salmonella to owners.)

Hedgehogs, which might not show any symptoms themselves but could still be carrying the bacteria, have been linked to salmonella before, when 26 people were infected between December 2011 and April 2013. One person died during that outbreak; no deaths have been reported in the current outbreak. The CDC and other experts are also recommending hedgehog owners wash their hands after touching their pets or their toys or bedding, avoid giving their hedgehogs baths in the kitchen sink, avoid letting their hedgehogs into their beds, and avoid leaving fresh food in their pets' cages for too long because it can spoil, causing bacteria to multiply. But one expert warns against getting too snuggly with your pet hedgehog for reasons other than the possible spread of disease: They are, of course, covered in quills. "It's not something you're going to pet or cuddle." (A man had to have his limbs amputated after getting "the lick of death.")

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