Backyard poultry flocks infected with six strains of Salmonella are responsible for 124 illnesses in 36 states, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. A third of the victims are children younger than 5.

It is the 71st Salmonella outbreak linked to backyard poultry since 2000.

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CDC says those outbreaks sickened 4,794 people, with 894 hospitalizations and seven deaths. The largest number ever recorded of Salmonella illnesses from backyard flocks occurred in 2017.

The current outbreak, with an onset of illness dates between Feb. 2 and May 14, is caused by multiple strains of the bacteria including Salmonella Seftenberg, Salmonella Montevideo, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Indiana and Salmonella Litchfield.

CDC reports 21 hospitalizations and no deaths as of June 1 in the current outbreak. It says 31 percent of the illnesses involve children younger than 5 years old.

Last year the United States experienced the most substantial number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded by CDC. It said 1,120 confirmed cases occurred in 48 states with 249 hospitalizations and one death.

Raising chickens in urban areas is an increasingly popular hobby, offering fresh eggs without paying grocery store prices. Since 2017, CDC has stepped up educating people about the dangers of backyard flocks.

Just coming into contact with live poultry or their environment can expose people to Salmonella infections. Birds carrying the bacteria can appear healthy and clean with no signs of illness.

If one keeps a backyard flock, follow these tips to stay healthy:

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in their environment.
  • Don’t let children younger than five years handle or touch live poultry without adult supervision.
  • Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of your birds and keep those outside of your home.
  • Do not let live poultry come into or live inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.

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