CDC fowl warning: Hundreds sickened by backyard flocks

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More than a third of the 372 people infected with Salmonella from backyard flocks so far this year are children younger than 5 years old, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting eight separate outbreaks across 47 states.

“These outbreaks are expected to continue for the next several months,” according to a public warning issued Thursday by the CDC. “Many people continue to purchase live poultry and continue to be exposed to Salmonella germs as they tend to their backyard flocks. Some of these birds can have a long life expectancy.”

From Jan. 4 through May 25, the CDC had confirmation of 372 people with Salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry in backyard settings. Of those, 71 had symptoms so severe they required hospitalization. Thirty-six percent of the infected people are children younger than 5 years old.

Public health officials interviewed 228 of the sick people and 190, or 83 percent, reported contact with live poultry in the week before they became ill.

“Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings link the eight outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, which come from several hatcheries,” according to the CDC.

“People reported purchasing live baby poultry from several sources, including feed supply stores, websites, hatcheries, and from relatives.”

CDC backyard flock safety tipsEight different types of Salmonella have been confirmed in outbreak victims: Salmonella braenderup, Salmonella enteritidis, Salmonella hadar, Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i-, Salmonella Indiana, Salmonella infantis, Salmonella mbandaka, and Salmonella typhimurium.

Public health officials at local, state and federal levels have seen an increase in the number of people infected with Salmonella from so-called backyard flocks and pet poultry. In 2016 the CDC reported record-setting numbers, but 2017 could easily surpass them.

In 2016, eight outbreaks infected 895 people with Salmonella across 48 states. From 1990 to 2016, a total of 65 outbreaks of human Salmonella infections have been linked to contact with live poultry.

While contracting Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter and other bacteria from live poultry is relatively easy, the preventive measures recommended by public health officials are also easy, but must be practiced diligently. Tips include:

  • Wash hands after handling live poultry.
  • Do not allow live chickens, ducks, and geese in the house, especially the kitchen.
  • Do not allow children younger than 5 years to handle or touch live poultry and eggs without supervision.
  • Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.

Anyone who has had contact with live poultry and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure so that the proper diagnostic tests can be performed.

Illness from Salmonella usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the person needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infections are more likely to be severe for children younger than 5 years, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, diabetes, and liver or kidney disease.

More tips for backyard flock owners to prevent infection can be found on the CDC website.

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