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Hedgehogs can be Hazardous to your Health | 1st4 (for) Animals
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Hedgehogs can be Hazardous to your Health

This post was written by admin3 on
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May 1, 2009
Posted Under: Exotic

 

Each year literally hundreds of millions exotic animals are imported into the USA and Europe. A future exotic pet may be running around in an African desert one day and find itself transported across the world to some family’s living room in say, Denver, within a week. Many of these future pets are not subject to quarantine requirements and often only minimal health checks are carried out before we bring them into our homes. Unfortunately many owners have no idea that their new pet could pose a significant health risk to them and their families.

Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are those that can jump from animals to humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA says that zoonotic diseases account for around three-quarters of all emerging infectious diseases today.

This article will provide you with information about just some of the diseases your pet might be carrying.

A CDC study from 2005 lists an alarming number of confirmed and potential zoonotic diseases that pet and wild hedgehogs can carry. The confirmed diseases include Salmonella, Yersina, pseudotubercolosis, Mycobacterium marinum, Herpesvirus including human herpes simplex and Rabies. The potential diseases they can carry include Yersina pestis (also responsible for Bubonic plague) and hemorrhagic fever.

Salmonella

Salmonella is normally contracted from contaminated food. However the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that 5% of infections are caused by contact with exotic pets. For example they estimate that nearly eighty thousand Americans contract Salmonella from their pet reptiles every year.

In 1994 African Pygmy Hedgehogs were responsible for passing on a rare form of Salmonella (S. tilene), to a 10 month old girl who became the first ever confirmed case of this serotype in a human in the USA. The girl’s family were hedgehog breeders who kept a herd of about 80 hedgehogs. Of particular importance is that the girl had never had any contact with the hedgehogs herself. She was infected by a family member who had handled the hedgehogs. This serotype has since been found to be the cause of infection in many other cases.

Ringworm

Despite its name ringworm or Tinea is not a worm but is actually a fungal skin infection. One source of ringworm is known to be pet and wild hedgehogs. Over the past few months HedgehogsAsPets.com has been covering a story where three people were infected with ringworm by two hoglets bought from the same breeder.

This tale is all the more intriguing as the breeder concerned managed to avoid Britain’s severe quarantine rules and brought a number of pet hedgehogs into the country from Germany. Normally, in the UK, imported hedgehogs would be subject to six months quarantine in a government recognised establishment.

What’s very strange about this case is that the breeder in question claims that the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) permitted her to quarantine her new imports at home, in a house that already contained, rats, snakes, lizards, sugar-gliders, hedgehogs and cats and dogs. Subsequently before it was learned that the German breeder’s herd was infected with ringworm, she had managed to spread the disease to the parents of the two hoglets that she later sold and infected three other people.

As well as the ringworm part of the story, this case illustrates what happens when you buy your pets from unreliable and dishonest dealers and breeders. Although the breeder has said she will pay the vet’s fees, after six months the new owners have not received a penny.

Reducing the risk of infection

To reduce the risk of infection simply go to this site and follow the advice they give there: http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/browse_by_animal.htm.

Purchasing your pet from a reputable breeder instead of a pet store, should provide you with more guarantees about the origins of the animal.

Even though the real risk of being infected by your pet is relatively small, owners should keep it in mind when handling their pets. If you follow the advice given on the CDC web site that risk is greatly reduced.

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