Reporting a record year for human illnesses linked to live poultry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrapped up its investigation this week of eight Salmonella outbreaks that have sickened 895 people across 48 states. That’s more than double the 324 case count in June when the CDC initially announced the outbreaks. The first identified victim became ill Jan. 4, with the most recent person becoming ill on Sept. 10. The final investigation update posted Wednesday by the CDC reports 28 percent of the victims have been children younger than 5. Three infected people died, but Salmonella infection was listed as the cause of death for only one of them. At least 209 people required hospitalization.

Click on the map to read the CDC's final report on the eight outbreaks linked to contact with live poultry.
Click on the map to read the CDC’s final report on the eight outbreaks linked to contact with live poultry.
Health officials say additional infections are likely. “Although these outbreak investigations are over, people can still get a Salmonella infection from live poultry, including those kept in backyard flocks,” according to the CDC report. “Regardless of where they were purchased, all live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean.” The connection between the eight outbreak of various strains of salmonella is clear, according to public health officials. Of the 745 victims interviewed, 74 percent of them, or 552, said they had contact with live chicks, chickens, ducks or ducklings during the week before they became ill. “Public health officials collected samples from live poultry and the environments where the poultry live and roam from the homes of ill people in several states or at locations of purchase in several states. Laboratory testing isolated five of the outbreak strains of Salmonella,” the CDC reported. Investigators used epidemiology, traceback and laboratory testing to link the eight outbreaks to live poultry sourced from multiple hatcheries. Ill people told investigators they bought live baby poultry from several supplier sources, including feed supply stores, Internet sites, hatcheries and friends in multiple states. The victims and their family members told public health officials they bought the live poultry to produce eggs, learn about agriculture, have as a hobby, enjoy for fun, keep as pets, or to give as Easter gifts. Some of the places ill people reported contact with live poultry included their home, someone else’s home, work, or school settings. The eight outbreaks involved the following varieties of Salmonella:

  • Salmonella Enteritidis;
  • Salmonella Muenster;
  • Salmonella Hadar;
  • Salmonella Indiana;
  • Salmonella Mbandaka;
  • Salmonella Braenderup; and
  • Salmonella Infantis.

State and public health officials advise the public to use caution when deciding whether to buy live poultry or visit locations where live poultry is present, especially if they have small children. Any contact with live poultry, its habitat or items from the habitat such as water or feed containers, can provide opportunity for infection from various pathogens, including Salmonella. The CDC urges the following precautions:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.
  • Do not let live poultry inside the house or other human living areas.
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without adult supervision.
  • Be sure all children wash properly after exposure to live poultry.

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