Public Health Notice: Outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to pet hedgehogs

November 6, 2020 - Original Notice

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Why you should take note

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections occurring in three provinces.

Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to pet hedgehogs has been identified as the likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported having direct or indirect contact with hedgehogs before their illnesses occurred. Ill individuals reported buying hedgehogs from various sources, including pet stores, breeders, or sellers advertising online. The investigation is ongoing to determine if there is a common source of hedgehogs.

In an effort to prevent further illnesses, Canadians are advised to practise good hand hygiene, frequent handwashing and safe handling of hedgehogs and their environments.

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.

This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.

Investigation summary

As of November 6, 2020, there are 11 confirmed cases of Salmonella Typhimurium illness in the following provinces: Alberta (4), Saskatchewan (1), and Quebec (6). Individuals became sick between December 2019 and August 2020. No one has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between two months and 63 years of age. The majority of cases (73%) are male.

The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated because reports of Salmonella Typhimurium illnesses with similar genetic fingerprints were identified.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium illnesses that have a similar genetic fingerprint to illnesses reported in this outbreak. Investigators in Canada and the U.S. continue to collaborate to exchange information and identify commonalities in the outbreak information that may help to determine if there is a common source of hedgehogs.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between six and seven weeks.

Who is most at risk

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but children aged 5 years and under, older adults, pregnant people or people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for contracting serious illness.

Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

What you can do to protect your health

Hedgehogs can carry Salmonella. Kissing and cuddling a hedgehog can spread Salmonella to your face or mouth and make you sick. Following these simple steps will help to reduce your risk of becoming ill from contact with hedgehogs and their environments.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal, person, or contaminated product.

Symptoms include:

These symptoms usually last for 4 to 7 days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment. In some cases, severe illness and hospitalization may occur. In some cases, antibiotics may be required. People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. People who experience symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.

What is the Government of Canada doing

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health of Canadians from enteric disease outbreaks. The Public Health Agency of Canada leads the human health investigation into an outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address an outbreak.

The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians if new information related to these investigations becomes available.

Epidemiological information

Figure 1 is an epidemiological curve for this outbreak, which shows the numbers of new cases by week. Outbreak investigators use this information to show when illnesses begin, when they peak and when they trail off. It can take several weeks from the time a person becomes ill to when the illness is reported and testing confirms a link to the outbreak. Data are available for 11 cases.

Figure 1: Number of people infected with Salmonella Typhimurium
fig1-eng
Figure 1 - Text description
Table 1 - Number of people confirmed to be infected with Salmonella Typhimurium by month of illness onset or specimen collection
Week of symptom onset or specimen collection Number of cases
12-01-2019 1
02-16-2020 1
03-08-2020 1
03-20-2020 1
04-19-2020 1
05-03-2020 1
05-31-2020 1
06-21-2020 1
07-19-2020 1
07-26-2020 1
08-02-2020 1

Additional information

Media contact

Public Health Agency of Canada
Media Relations
613-957-2983

Public inquiries

Call toll-free: 1-866-225-0709
Email: info@hc-sc.gc.ca

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