Quit kissing adorable hedgehogs, says the CDC

Omigod, they're cute, but there's peril in smooches and snuggles.

Quit kissing adorable hedgehogs, says the CDC
(Flickr user Bea)
  • The CDC has identified an outbreak of salmonella caused by contact with hedgehogs.
  • A hedgehog can appear healthy and still carry salmonella.
  • Conscientious hygiene is required for anyone living with a hedgie.

If you live in New York City, Pennsylvania, California, Hawaii, or Washington, D.C., we know you don't own a hedgehog — they're illegal in those places. However, if you live anywhere else…

As a society, we've been developing a massive crush on these impossibly cute creatures: 2,752,587 Instagram posts are currently tagged #hedgehog. But unhand that little quill ball for a second; the CDC has just issued a notice that kissing and cuddling one of these little sweeties may result in your contracting — no, not diabetes — salmonella. And that's no fun. Or worse.

The CDC notice

(CDC)

From October to December 2018 alone, 11 people in eight U.S states have been infected with Salmonella Typhimurium, and are believed to have contracted the illness from hedgehogs — 10 of the 11 reported contact. No deaths have been reported, and just one hospitalization, but it's only a two-month period, so the cause for concern is obvious.

While most people recover from a salmonella infection without treatment, it's still a nasty disease and can be fatal in rare cases without prompt antibiotic treatment. Most victims, says the CDC, can expect fever, stomach cramps, and diarrhea 12 to 72 hours after exposure. It's usually four to seven days before the symptoms abate. If diarrhea is severe enough, hospitalization may be required.

Kids younger than five, adults over 65, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk.

What to do if you have a hedgehog pet

(Flickr user grrrl)

Most of the hedgehogs Americans enjoy having in their families are African pygmy hedgehogs, or Atelerix albiventris. (There are no hedgehogs native to the U.S.) Unfortunately, even healthy-seeming hedgies can carry salmonella in their droppings, and the germs can easily spread to their toys, habitats, bedding, and throughout any areas in which they spend time.

The CDC notice doesn't conclude that you can't have a hedgehog as a pet, though the animals do require special care to remain healthy, happy, and adorable. The agency simply recommends taking some common-sense precautions:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after touching a hedgehog or feeding it. It's especially important to do so after cleaning its habitat. (Make sure children in the household know how to correctly wash their hands.)
  • Make sure your interaction with a hedgehog doesn't provide germs an easy way to enter your body. Sorry, but yes, kissing a hedgie is dangerous since salmonella can get directly onto your face and into your mouth. Likewise, cuddling invites salmonella transfer to your skin and clothing.
  • Keep human food away from hedgehogs — make sure that they don't play where food is prepared or stored.
  • When you clean a hedgehog's habitat or belongings, including toys, try to do it outside the house. At a bare minimum, don't do it in your kitchen or in any area where food is prepared.

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Ethical hacking: saving society with computer code

As a form of civil disobedience, hacking can help make the world a better place.

Credit: NICOLAS ASFOURI via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Hackers' motivations range from altruistic to nihilistic.
  • Altruistic hackers expose injustices, while nihilistic ones make society more dangerous.
  • The line between ethical and unethical hacking is not always clear.
Keep reading Show less

Is it ethical to pay people to get vaccinated?

It could lead to a massive uptake in those previously hesitant.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Coronavirus

A financial shot in the arm could be just what is needed for Americans unsure about vaccination.

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast