Public health officials in several states are investigating outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to contact with backyard poultry. There have been 163 people reported ill from 43 states. One-third of the patients are children younger than 5, according to the federal CDC

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that 34 people have required hospitalization, but no deaths have been reported as of May 20.

As is often the case, the number of sick people is likely much higher than the reported number, as many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella.

Salmonella outbreak numbers provided by the CDC as of May 20, 2021.

Interviews with those with Salmonella infections have shown that contact with backyard poultry is the likely source of the outbreaks. Backyard poultry can carry Salmonella and other germs even if they look healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread in areas where they live and roam.

Salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard poultry are an annual problem in the U.S. From 2000 through 2018 there were 76 Salmonella outbreaks linked to live poultry. Those outbreaks sickened 5,128, resulting in 950 hospitalizations and 7 deaths.

In 2020, CDC and public health officials in all 50 states investigated 17 multistate outbreaks of Salmonellaillnesses linked to contact with poultry in backyard flocks. The number of illnesses reported this year was higher than the number reported during any of the past years’ outbreaks linked to backyard flocks.

As of Dec. 17, 2020, a total of 1,722 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella were reported from all 50 states — 333 people were hospitalized and there was one death. Twenty-four percent of ill people were children younger than five years of age; 576 of the 876 ill people interviewed reported contact with chicks and ducklings.

Backyard poultry safety tips from the CDC:

  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds after touching the flock or flock supplies
  • Keep flocks and flock supplies outside the house to prevent spreading germs into your house.
  • Don’t let children younger than 5 years touch the birds (including chicks and ducklings) or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle the birds, as this can spread germs to your mouth and make you sick.

About Salmonella infections

Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. It cannot be seen on surfaces, utensils, birds or humans. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has developed symptoms of a Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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