Federal investigators warn that more than 124 people have been sickened over the past few months as a result of salmonella infection outbreaks linked to backyard poultry pens, with cases reported in at least 36 different states.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a multi-state outbreak advisory earlier this month, regarding several different strains of salmonella that have sickend individuals throughout the United States between February 2, 2018 and June 1, 2018, resulting in nearly two dozen hospitalizations.
Backyard chicken pens or live poultry flocks have reportedly caused outbreaks of Salmonella Seftenberg, Salmonella Montevideo, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Indiana, and Salmonella Litchfield.
The illnesses were reported among individuals who handled or came into contact with live poultry from backyard chicken or duck flocks, with nearly 31% of those sickened being children younger than 5 years old.
More than 70% of the people impacted by the outbreak reported contact with chicks or ducklings in the week before their illness stared. Each person reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including feed supply stores, websites, hatcheries, and from relatives.
People can become very sick from touching live poultry or the environment poultry is kept in. Chickens and ducks can appear healthy, clean, and have no signs of illness, but they may still carry salmonella.
People sickened by salmonella can experience severe cramps, diarrhea, chills, fever, headaches, bloody stools, nausea, and vomiting. Most symptoms last about 4-7 days and can be treated at home.
In some cases, individuals who get the infection can experience serious complications, resulting in symptoms that last weeks or months, or require hospitalization. Young children and people older than 65 with weakened immune systems are especially at risk.
Health officials offered several tips to those who keep live poultry in their backyards to prevent Salmonella infection:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after touching live poultry or handling anything in their environment.
- Don’t allow children younger than 5 years old to handle or touch live poultry without adult supervision.
- Use a different pair of shoes while caring for birds and keep those shoes outside of your home.
- Do not let live poultry inside the house, bathrooms, or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
More than 70 outbreaks of Salmonella have been linked to contact with backyard poultry flocks since 2000, according to the CDC. In 2017 the agency reported the largest number of illnesses linked to backyard flocks ever recorded.