Young hedgehogs die in the autumn afflicted by parasites and salmonella

28.9.2012

<p>Many of us have found dead or ill hedgehogs in the back yard during the late summer and autumn. In fact, this is the time of the year when the number of dead hedgehogs examined by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira is at its highest.</p>

All of the examined hedgehogs have been young individuals born last summer who have failed to gain enough weight for winter hibernation. These hedgehogs have weighed less than 300 grams while the weight needed to survive hibernation should be twice as high.

Afflicted by parasites
Apart from starvation, young hedgehogs suffer from internal parasites. Often the animals have a lot of lung worms in their airways as well as parasitic worms in their intestines causing entertis. A well-fed hedgehog may tolerate these parasites without any serious effect but malnourished animals will waste away. Often the ill hedgehogs may be in too poor a condition to respond to treatment.

Hedgehogs may also carry bacterial diseases
The most common pathogen found during Evira’s examinations is Salmonella. Hedgehogs may be symptom-free carriers who spread the bacterium in the environment via excrement without contracting the disease themselves. A salmonella infection in the intestines may develop into a full-blown general infection.

Additionally, hedgehogs may have pseudotuberculosis (caused by the Yersinia pseudotuberculosis bacterium) or even tularaemia (Francisella tularensis). Both bacteria can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Remember hygiene
Those who are in contact with hedgehogs should remember that salmonella causes food poisoning and is thus a health risk.

Salmonellosis, an infection caused by the salmonella bacterium, is one of the diseases that people can catch from animals. To protect yourself, it is advisable to wash your hands thoroughly after touching a hedgehog.

As the somewhat sloppy table manners of hedgehogs are likely to spread salmonella at feeding places, keep the plates used to feed the animals clean to protect the health of both the animals and people. After handling the plates, wash your hands carefully before doing anything else.

If needed, dead hedgehogs can be sent to Evira, Oulu, for examination.
For instructions on how to send wild animal samples  (in Finnish)

Further information:
Researcher Marja Isomursu, Production and Wild Animal Research Unit, Oulu
Tel. 040 512 1248

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