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Another Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Backyard Chickens, Ducks

Over 200 people nationwide have been infected by contact with poultry and eggs

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Teresa Lett

For the third year in a row, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating an outbreak of salmonella infections linked to backyard poultry such as chickens and ducks. A total of 219 people have been infected across 38 states resulting in 27 hospitalizations and one death.​​

These outbreaks can occur annually and often coincide with the increase in the number of chicks purchased beginning in the spring, according to the CDC.​

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Last year, a total of 1,135 people got sick from contact with chickens and ducks in their backyards. These infections are not related to recent cases of H5N1 bird flu viruses detected in wild birds and poultry. However, poultry owners should be aware that the steps needed to stay healthy around their flocks are similar for both diseases, the CDC said.​

So far, this year’s documented infections occurred between Feb. 15 and May 19. Sick people range in age from under 1 year old to 89, with a median age of 29 years. However, about 1 in 4 sick people are children under 5 years old. ​

The CDC believes the true number of infections is likely higher than the total reported because people are not regularly tested for salmonella and many who are infected recover without medical care. It takes up to four weeks for health officials to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.​​

States where sick people lived    

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Advice to backyard flock owners ​

1. Wash your hands. If you have feathered friends in your backyard, the CDC advises you to always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching birds, their eggs or anything else where they roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

2. Supervise children. Adults should supervise young children when cleaning their hands after touching birds. Children younger than 5 years old shouldn’t handle birds, since they are more prone to get sick.​

3. Collect eggs often. Eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break. If an egg appears cracked, throw it away because germs can enter through the crack. If a shell appears dirty, clean it with fine sandpaper, a brush or a cloth. Warm eggs should not be washed because cold water can pull germs into the egg. Refrigerate eggs to slow germ growth.​

4. Cook eggs thoroughly. The CDC recommends cooking eggs until the yolk and white are firm, with an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw and undercooked eggs may contain salmonella and make you sick.​​

Symptoms of a salmonella infection 

​Salmonellosis, the intestinal infection caused by the salmonella bacteria, typically leads to diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. In severe cases the infection can spread from the intestines to the urine, blood, bones, joints, spinal fluid or brain. Symptoms generally begin six hours to six days after infection and can last up to seven days. However, in some instances, symptoms can appear weeks after infection or remain for several weeks, according to the CDC.​

A confirmed diagnosis is made when a lab test determines if the bacteria is present in a person’s stool, body tissue or fluids. Typically, most people can recover without an antibiotic, but treatment is recommended for anyone with severe illness. Infected adults over age 65 (or over 50 if an underlying condition such as heart disease is present), infants and those with a weakened immune system are also advised to take an antibiotic.​

How to Stay Safe Around Backyard Flocks

  • Don’t kiss birds or snuggle with them and then touch your face or mouth.
  • Don’t let birds or supplies you use to care for them in your home, especially where food is prepared, served or stored. ​
  • Clean the equipment or materials used to raise or care for birds, including cages outside.
  • Wear a separate pair of shoes when caring for birds and store the footwear outside.​

Source: CDC​​

​​Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.​

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