Salmonella outbreaks linked to poultry in backyard flocks, health officials say

Health officials investigating seven multistate outbreaks of salmonella believe the infections stem from contact with backyard flocks of poultry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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A total of 324 people reported falling ill between Jan. 4 and May 11 in 35 states, including Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Sixty-six people were hospitalized with salmonella. Of those, one person died, although the CDC said salmonella was not suspected as the cause of death.

Over 90 percent of the 238 ill people interviewed told investigators that they were around live poultry in the week before falling ill. Samples taken from live poultry in several states also tested positive for salmonella.

"Ill people reported purchasing live baby poultry from several different suppliers, including feed supply stores, co-ops, hatcheries and friends in multiple states," CDC officials said in an outbreak summary released late last week.

Officials expect the outbreaks to continue "for the next several months," because flock owners may not be aware of the risk of salmonella associated with live birds.

The infected birds came from multiple hatcheries, according to the CDC.

"Regardless of where they were purchased, all live poultry can carry salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean," health officials said.

Salmonella infections typically last between four and seven days and rarely require hospitalization. In rare cases, the infection can cause death unless a person is promptly treated with antibiotics. Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal craps. It can be particularly hard on children under 5 years old, adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems.

The CDC released a list of tips for people who own backyard flocks:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Also wash your hands after handling clothes and shoes that have touched live poultry. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.

  • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands with soap and water.

  • Do not let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.

  • Do not eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.

  • Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth or eat or drink around live poultry.

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