Salmonella outbreaks in multiple states linked to pet hedgehogs, bearded dragons

Two outbreaks affected dozens, according to the CDC.

Two salmonella outbreaks affecting dozens of people in multiple states have been linked to pet hedgehogs and bearded dragons, the Centers for Disease and Control said this week.

The CDC is investigating an outbreak of the strain Salmonella Typhimurium, with 32 infections in 17 states tied to contact with pet hedgehogs as of Sept. 22.

Five people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Sixteen of 23 ill people interviewed reported contact with a hedgehog before becoming sick, the CDC said.

The CDC also is investigating an outbreak of the strain Salmonella Muenster, in which there have been 13 infections in eight states tied to contact with pet bearded dragons.

Seven people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported. Five of those ill are younger than 5, while 10 of 13 people reported contact with a bearded dragon before getting sick, the CDC said.

The CDC did not identify all of the states in the outbreaks, though it said that samples from a hedgehog in New York contained the strain that was making people sick.

Those affected reported buying bearded dragons and hedgehogs from various suppliers, and a common source has not been identified for either pet, the CDC said.

"The more you interact with them, the friendlier they become," said Lyons, who has had hedgehogs and currently has two bearded dragons. "It's about creating that bond, but at the same time you do have to protect yourself."

The store recommends washing your hands after handling the pets and cleaning hedgehog wheels each morning.

Common symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps anywhere from six hours to six days after exposure. The illness can last up to a week. Most people do not need treatment, though children under 5, adults 65 and older and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe case.

The CDC has investigated two salmonella outbreaks linked to hedgehogs in recent years. In 2012, 26 people from 12 states were infected with Salmonella Typhimurium, resulting in eight hospitalizations and one death. In 2019, 54 people were infected with the strain in 23 states. Eight people were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

Last year, a salmonella outbreak in 14 states was linked to pet turtles. There were 26 reported cases, resulting in eight hospitalizations and no deaths.