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Live Chicks and Ducklings from Ohio Hatchery Sicken 93 with Salmonella

At least 93 people in 23 states have fallen ill from Salmonella infections linked to Mt. Healthy Hatchery, a single mail-order poultry hatchery in Ohio, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of 36 people with information available, 18 (50 percent) were hospitalized. The CDC is currently investigating a death possibly linked to the outbreak.

Of the 93 ill, 34 (37 percent) are children 10 years of age or younger.

The number of ill by state is as follows:

Alabama (3), Georgia (3), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Kentucky (4), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Maryland (1), Maine (2), Michigan (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), North Carolina (9), New York (13), Ohio (26), Pennsylvania (9), Rhode Island (1), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (4), Texas (1), Virginia (6), Vermont (1), and West Virginia (1).

Victims are infected with three different strains of Salmonella, each linking back to the hatchery: Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Lille. State health departments in Ohio and New York tested chick and duckling samples from private homes to find those strains.

“Salmonella is a very real part of poultry digestive tracts,” said Erica Pitchford, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “People get these chicks for Easter, and sure, they’re cute, but they’re still livestock. You don’t want to keep them in your house or have your kids picking them up. Everyone should wash their hands after touching them.”

The CDC did not release the name of the hatchery, but multiple news sources have reported it as Mt. Healthy Hatchery, the same hatchery responsible for a multistate Salmonella outbreak  that sickened at least 68 last year. The CDC does not name establishments connected to illness outbreaks unless they believe an ongoing public health threat exists.

Pitchford told Food Safety News that the hatchery is still selling live poultry. She said that the state veterinarian and agriculture department have been working with the hatchery over the past year to improve conditions and management practices.

State officials now believe birds are coming into the hatchery already contaminated, so they are now working with the managers to change their purchasing practices and test birds before they enter the facility.

The first reported illnesses began around March 1 of this year and peaked around April 9. Illnesses that occurred after May 6 might not yet be reported.

The CDC is using its online infection database, PulseNet, to coordinate public health and agriculture officials across the country in an effort to find more possible cases linked to the outbreak.

News of this outbreak comes the same day that researchers published a paper on an investigation into an eight-year Salmonella outbreak linked to live chicks.

Charts courtesy of CDC.gov:

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