Prickly response: hedgehogs shouldn’t be kissed, says the CDC. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters
By Sam Wolfson
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has taken the unusual measure of advising Americans not to kiss or snuggle their pet hedgehogs.
It comes after a CDC investigation found that 11 people in the United States had contracted a rare strain of salmonella, known as Salmonella typhimurium, since October. It’s emerged that 10 out of the 11 were in close contact with hedgehogs before becoming ill.
The 11 people were in eight different states, including three in Missouri and two in Minnesota. The CDC said it was unclear if the pet hedgehogs came from “a common supplier”.
Officials have warned hedgehog owners not to “kiss or snuggle hedgehogs, because this can spread salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick”. Owners are also advised not to “let hedgehogs roam freely in areas where food is prepared or stored, such as kitchen”.
One person has been hospitalised and no deaths have been reported.
In 2012 there was another major outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium in which most people affected had come into contact with a hedgehog. During that outbreak there were a total of 26 cases and eight people were hospitalised.
Some hedgehogs have become social media stars in the past few years, and their cute photos have racked up thousands of likes. Darcy the hedgehog, named after the former Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’arcy Wretzky, has more than 294,000 followers.
The humanisation of celebrity hedgehogs perhaps explains why people feel more compelled to kiss them, but having one as a pet remains illegal in many US states including Georgia, California and Hawaii, as well as Washington DC and New York City. These bans are mostly in place because of fears around disease.