Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Mt. Healthy Hatcheries Live Chickens

A multistate outbreak of salmonella food poisoning, which has sickened more than 250 people in 32 states, appears to be linked to an Ohio live poultry hatchery. 

The live poultry Salmonella outbreak was first noticed by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) on May 8, after reports were received involving at least 60 reports of visitors to the hatchery becoming ill from 23 states.

In the most recent update, the CDC found that the number of victims has grown to 251, including 54 people who were hospitalized for Salmonella infection. To date, there have been no deaths associated with the outbreak.

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CDC officials have conducted epidemiologic and trace back investigations with state and local public health agencies that indicated contact with live poultry from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries of Ohio is likely the source of the outbreak.

Mt. Healthy Hatcheries is a company that sells birds to many different retailers and allows customers of all age to pet and come in contact with chicks, chickens, ducks, and ducklings. The hatchery uses multiple source flocks to obtain eggs and chicks, so at the time it is still unclear where the contamination originated.

Reports of illness have been recorded from Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The CDC’s investigation indicated that 80% of ill people with certain strains of Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport, or Salmonella Hadar infection reported coming in contact with live poultry in the week before their illness began. The investigation also determined that 90% of the individuals hospitalized reported purchasing live baby poultry from five different feed or farm stores companies in multiple states to whom Mt. Healthy Hatcheries distributes.

The first illness was reported in early February and the numbers of infected visitors and customers has climbed steadily to date. Health officials have claimed they expect to receive more reports of illnesses because infections that set in after May 28, might not be reported yet due to the average 2-4 weeks it takes to be reported. The outbreak has impacted people ranging in age from less than one year to 95 years of age with 39% of severely ill persons being 10 years of age or younger.

Many of the families reporting illnesses stated they brought the chicks and ducklings into their homes and some even reported kids cuddling or kissing the animals.

Salmonella infections can cause mild to severe health consequences depending upon the individual. The bacteria may cause a healthy person to experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain whereas the young or elderly with weakened immune systems may face more severe consequences, including fatal infections. Occasionally, salmonella infections may travel through the bloodstream and produce illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

The CDC recommends that families do not bring the live-stock into their homes and that adults and children should always wash their hands thoroughly with warm soapy water immediately after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should always air on the cautious side when preparing raw poultry as well by never cross contaminating cutting boards or utensils.

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