(AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Jim Damaske, File). FILE - A hedgehog sleeps at the SPCA in Largo, Fla., in a Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 file photo.
SPOKANE, WA (AP) -
Add those cute little hedgehogs to the list of pets that can make you sick.
In the last year, 20 people were infected by a rare but dangerous form of salmonella bacteria, and one person died. Investigators say the illnesses were linked to contact with hedgehogs kept as pets.
Health officials on Thursday say such cases seem to be increasing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends thoroughly washing your hands after handling hedgehogs. Also, clean pet cages and other equipment outside.
Other pets that carry the salmonella bug are frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, lizards, chicks and ducklings.
Seven of the hedgehog illnesses were in Washington state, including the death.
The Washington Department of Health said the only fatal case in the country was an elderly man in Spokane County. The victim was more than 80 years old and passed away this month.
The other cases were in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon.
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.
The critters linked to recent illnesses were purchased from various breeders, many of them licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, CDC officials said. Hedgehogs are native to Western Europe, New Zealand and some other parts of the world, but are bred in the United States.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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