Twenty-one people have been hospitalized with Salmonella contracted through contact with backyard poultry flocks since February 2018, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released today.
As of June 1st, 124 illnesses have been reported from 36 states. Nearly one-third of the outbreak victims are children of 5 years of age or younger.
The Salmonella outbreak has been linked to contact with live poultry – mainly chicks and duckings – in backyard flocks. The birds were obtained from multiple sources.
Several types of Salmonella have been found in outbreak victims, including: Salmonella Seftenberg, Salmonella Montevideo, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Indiana, and Salmonella Litchfield.
Since 2000, contact with backyard poultry has been responsible for 4,794 documented Salmonella illnesses in 70 separate outbreaks. Seven people died in these outbreaks, and 894 required hospitalization. Ten outbreaks occurred in 2017 alone, sickening more than 1100 individuals in 48 states, killing one, and sending 249 of them to hospital.
Keeping backyard flocks has become increasing popular in recent years, with more and more cities amending their by-laws to permit residents to do so. According to a 2017 article in the Los Angeles Times, more than 1% of US households now keep chickens.
All too often, apparently healthy baby chicks and ducklings carry Salmonella. Children are especially drawn to these animals, which are small enough for tiny hands to hold. Unfortunately, a toddler or young child is all too likely to neglect to wash his or her hands after cuddling a feathered pet, and is especially susceptible to becoming infected with Salmonella as a result.
CDC offers the following advice for staying healthy while enjoying the benefits of a backyard flock:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.
- Adults should supervise handwashing by young children.
- Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
- Don’t let live poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
- Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.
- Don’t let children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, or people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or organ transplants, handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
- Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
- Don’t kiss your birds or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.
- Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers.
- Buy birds from hatcheries that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP). This program is intended to reduce the incidence of Salmonella in baby poultry in the hatchery, which helps prevent the spread of illness among poultry and people.