The number of people infected this year by Salmonella from contact with so-called backyard poultry flocks has more than doubled since June 1, with 790 victims now confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Almost a third of the victims, 31 percent, are children younger than 5 years old.

Virginia had the most confirmed cases, 52, of Salmonella infections linked to backyard flocks as of July 7. Ohio was second with 45 cases and California was third with 42 confirmed cases. Map courtesy of CDC

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

The federal agency is now tracking 10 separate outbreaks, up from eight reported earlier, spanning 48 states and Washington D.C., according to the July 13 update. The CDC predicts the country is on track to surpass the 2016 total of 895 cases of Salmonella infection linked to contact with backyard flocks. The implicated birds came from multiple hatcheries.

No deaths have been reported, but another 103 people have required hospitalization since the CDC’s initial June 1 public warning, bringing the total to at least 174 victims with symptoms so severe that they had to be admitted to hospitals. Information was available for only 580 of the victims, so there could have been even more hospitalizations.

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.

“Any live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean. That’s why it’s important for anyone raising backyard poultry to take steps to avoid getting sick when handling and caring for birds,” the CDC warned.

As of July 7 the CDC had confirmed 10 strains of Salmonella bacteria in the outbreak investigations: 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.

Illness onset dates range from Jan. 4 through June 20. Lag time between illness onset and addition of victims to the outbreak count can be several weeks because of the time it takes for lab test results to be returned and then forwarded to state and federal officials.

The outbreak numbers are expected to continue to increase for the next several months, according to the CDC, because people continue to purchase live poultry and continue to be exposed to Salmonella germs as they tend to backyard flocks.

“Regardless of where they are purchased, live poultry may have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies, feathers, feet and beaks even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, coops, hay, plants and soil in the area where the birds live and roam,” the CDC reported.

To view this graphic from the CDC full size, please click on the image.

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

  • 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.

“Young children are more likely to get sick because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put their fingers or pacifiers and other items into their mouths,” according to the CDC website.

Illness from Salmonella infection usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. However, diarrhea may become 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,” according to the CDC.

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