A Spokane man in his 90s is the first person to die in a national outbreak of salmonella infection that’s been traced to contact with hedgehogs, the Spokane Regional Health District said Thursday.
Seven cases of infection by a rare but dangerous form of salmonella bacteria in Washington have been linked to contact with hedgehogs.
Twenty people have been infected in the past year, but the Spokane County man was the first fatality. He died in January, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other cases were in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon.
The Spokane health district said in a news release that pet hedgehogs can carry the salmonella bacteria and may not appear to be sick.
People can become infected by handling their pets, or the hedgehogs can shed bacteria and contaminate cages, toys, bedding or surfaces, the release said.
Other pets that carry the salmonella bug are frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, lizards, chicks and ducklings.
The hedgehogs involved in the salmonella outbreak were bought from several breeders, many of them licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The animal associated with the death of the man in Spokane County was bought locally, the health district said.
Health officials say such cases seem to be increasing.
The CDC recommends thoroughly washing your hands after handling hedgehogs and cleaning pet cages and other equipment outside.
Hedgehogs are small, insect-eating mammals with a coat of stiff quills. In nature, they sometimes live under hedges and defend themselves by rolling up into a spiky ball.