Canada’s public health agency is investigating an outbreak of salmonella in multiple provinces linked to hedgehogs.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there have been 32 confirmed cases of salmonella typhimurium in six provinces including British Columbia, where three cases have been reported.
Pet hedgehogs have been identified as the “likely” source of the outbreak, the agency says, after investigative findings revealed that the majority of people who became infected reported having direct or indirect contact with the animal shortly beforehand.
“Hedgehogs can carry salmonella bacteria even though they appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. Even having indirect contact by touching their environments can put you at risk for developing a salmonella infection,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a press release.
“Kissing and cuddling a hedgehog can spread salmonella to your face or mouth and make you sick. To prevent direct or indirect spread of salmonella to others, follow these simple steps to help reduce your risk of becoming ill from contact with hedgehogs and their environments,” it added.
As a result, the agency is reminding hedgehog owners to practice good hygiene such as washing hands with soap and warm water immediately after touching the animal, their food, supplies, or after being in the area where they live or roam.
They also say owners should regularly clean any surfaces or objects that their hedgehog touches with soapy water followed by a disinfectant and should not bathe hedgehogs in a kitchen sink, bathtub or bathroom sinks.
“Be aware of the specific needs of your hedgehog. Always keep hedgehogs in habitats specifically designed for them. Stress for a hedgehog can increase shedding of salmonella. If your hedgehog gets sick, follow up with your veterinarian,” the agency said in its release.
Since 2017, when individuals first reported becoming sick, there have been 32 confirmed cases, 21 of which were recently confirmed. Quebec has reported 17, the most of any province. Cases have also been reported in Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
Although no one has died, four people have been hospitalized and the majority of confirmed infections occurred in females, with 30 per cent of the confirmed cases occurred in children under the age of 10, according to the agency.
Symptoms of a salmonella infection, which is known as salmonellosis, typically occur six to 72 hours after exposure from an infected person, animal or contaminated product. Symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, vomiting and nausea and can last between four to seven days.
Most healthy people should recover without treatment, however, salmonella can lead to hospitalization and even death in some cases. Those infected with salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks, according to the agency.
More information can be found here.