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Multistate outbreaks of human salmonella infections linked to live poultry in backyard flocks

By Rick Thomason

University of Tennessee
Johnson County Extension Director

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with multiple states are investigating 10 separate multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections in people who had contact with live poultry in backyard flocks.
The outbreak strains of Salmonella have infected a reported 961 people in 48 states and the District of Columbia.  Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 4, 2017 to July 31, 2017.  172 more people have reported ill since July 31st.  215 ill people have been hospitalized and one death has been reported.
Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings link the 10 outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, from multiple hatcheries.  In interviews, 498 (74%) of 672 ill people reported contact with live poultry in the week before their illness started.  Contact with live poultry or their environment can make people sick with Salmonella infections.  Live poultry can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean, with no sign of illness.
Follow these steps for protecting yourself and others while enjoying your backyard flock:
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.

Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.  People in these groups are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.
Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.

Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages, feed, or water containers.
Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling eggs, chickens, or anything in their environment.
Collect eggs often.  Eggs that spend a significant amount of time in the nest can become dirty or break. Cracked eggs should be thrown away.
Refrigerate eggs after collection.
Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush or cloth.  Don’t wash eggs, because colder water can pull bacteria into the egg.
Cook eggs thoroughly.  Raw and undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.
Read CDC’s recommendations (https://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellapoultry/)<CDC’s%20recommendations%20(https:/www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellapoultry/)> for taking care of your backyard flock, which apply to all live poultry, regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased.