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Backyard flock Salmonella victims triple, 1 dead; more expected

So far this year, preschoolers account for a third of the 961 confirmed victims in a Salmonella outbreak that has turned deadly and been traced to backyard poultry flocks.

There had already been more confirmed infections related to backyard flocks by Aug. 11 this year than in all of 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency is actually tracking 10 separate Salmonella outbreaks traced to contact with backyard poultry pens.

The CDC’s investigators expect the outbreaks to continue to expand for the next several months, according to a public warning posted Monday. Lab tests have confirmed victims in Washington D.C. and all states, except Alaska and Delaware. The CDC did not report which state reported the death, which was made public for the first time Monday.

“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,” according to the CDC  warning.

The federal agency is tracking 10 separate outbreaks, up from the eight reported initially reported June 1. Multiple state agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) are assisting the CDC with the outbreak investigations.

“These outbreaks are caused by several DNA fingerprints of different Salmonella bacteria: Salmonella Braenderup, Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i-, Salmonella Indiana, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Litchfield, Salmonella Mbandaka, Salmonella Muenchen, and Salmonella Typhimurium,” according to Monday’s update from CDC.

In CDC’s initial outbreak announcement on June 1, the agency reported it had confirmed 372 people with Salmonella infections linked to backyard poultry. Illness onset dates for those people began Jan. 4 and continued through May 25. Of those 372 people, 71 had symptoms so severe they required hospitalization.

Public health officials interviewed 228 of the sick people before the June 1 announcement. They found 190, or 83 percent, reported contact with live poultry in the week before they became ill.

By July 13, the victim total was 790. The number of hospitalizations had increased to 174, but hospital information was only available for 580 of the victims, so the CDC reported there were likely more admissions.

No deaths were reported in the July 13 outbreak update.

“In interviews, 409, or 74 percent, of 553 ill people reported contact with live poultry in the week before illness started,” the CDC reported.

To view a larger version of the map and a list of states’ victim counts, please click on the image.

In its update Monday, CDC reported interviews with 672 victims have been completed and 498 or them, or 74 percent, had contact with live poultry in the week before illness started.

Anyone who has recently been exposed to backyard poultry and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seem medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure so the proper diagnostic tests can be performed.

Symptoms for most people can include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, beginning 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria.

Illness from Salmonella usually lasts four to seven days. In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the person needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infections are more likely to be severe for children younger than 5 years, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, diabetes, and liver or kidney disease.

The following safety tips are advised by the CDC, to avoid a Salmonella infection from backyard poultry:

  • Always wash hands with soap and running water for a minimum of 20 seconds after handling live poultry;
  • Do not allow live chickens, ducks or geese in the house;
  • Do not allow children younger than 5 years to handle or touch live poultry and eggs without supervision;
  • Never snuggle or kiss the birds or touch your face or mouth and do not eat or drink while around live poultry.

More tips for how backyard flock owners can prevent infection can be found on the CDC website.

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