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Hedgehogs found to carry salmonella

Add those cute little hedgehogs to the list of pets that can make you sick.

In the past year, 20 people were infected by a rare but dangerous form of salmonella bacteria, and one died in January. The illnesses were linked to contact with hedgehogs kept as pets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Such cases seem to be increasing, health officials said Thursday.

The CDC recommends thoroughly washing hands after handling hedgehogs and cleaning 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 -- an elderly man from Spokane County.

Children younger than 5 and the elderly are considered at highest risk for severe illness, CDC officials said.

Hedgehogs are 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. They are native to Western Europe, New Zealand and some other parts of the world, but are bred in the United States. -- AP