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Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Backyard Chickens, Ducks 

Over 100 people nationwide have been infected by contact with poultry and eggs

spinner image a group of chickens eating on a grassy farm
Pasture raised chickens search for food on the ground at an Illinois farm.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

An outbreak of salmonella has been linked to backyard poultry such as chickens and ducks, with 109 people infected and 33 hospitalized across 29 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced.

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

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Last year, there were reports of 1,072 people sickened from contact with chickens and ducks in their backyards. 

This year’s documented infections occurred between Feb. 28 and April 30. Sick people range in age from under 1 to 93. However, almost half are children under 5. 

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.​​

Advice to backyard flock owners ​

1. Wash your hands. The CDC advises that you always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching birds, their eggs or anything else where birds roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

2. Supervise children. Adults should supervise young children who are cleaning their hands after touching birds. Children younger than 5 shouldn’t handle birds, since those children 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.​​


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How to stay safe around backyard flocks

  • Remember, chickens can carry salmonella even if they look healthy and clean. 
  • 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 into your home, especially anywhere food is prepared, served or stored. ​
  • Germs can easily spread from chickens to anything in the areas where they live and roam. 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.​

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 that the bacteria is present in a person’s stool, body tissue or fluids. Most people can recover without an antibiotic, but treatment is recommended for anyone with severe illness. Infected adults over 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.​

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