Public health officials are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to contact with backyard poultry. As of May 16, 109 people across 29 states have been infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella. While no deaths have been reported, 33 individuals have been hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the importance of taking precautions when handling backyard poultry to prevent the spread of this bacteria.

Backyard Poultry and Salmonella
Backyard poultry, such as chickens and ducks, can carry Salmonella germs even if they appear healthy and clean. These germs can spread easily to anything in the areas where the poultry live and roam. Humans can get sick by touching backyard poultry or anything in their environment and then touching their mouth or food, swallowing the Salmonella germs.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback data indicate that contact with backyard poultry is making people sick. The illnesses have been reported from Feb. 28, 2024, to April 30, 2024, and the true number of sick people is likely higher than reported, as many recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella.

Of those interviewed, 73 percent reported contact with backyard poultry, and 67 percent of those with information available had purchased or obtained poultry before their illness. The poultry was purchased from multiple retail stores and hatcheries, and no common supplier has been identified across all outbreaks.

Consumer Safety Tips:

To stay safe around backyard poultry and prevent Salmonella infections, the CDC recommends the following guidelines:

Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands with soap and water immediately after touching backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything in their environment. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer. Keeping hand sanitizer near your coop can be helpful.

Be Safe Around Backyard Flocks

Avoid kissing or snuggling backyard poultry and refrain from eating or drinking around them. This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick. Keep your poultry and the supplies used to care for them, like feed containers and shoes worn in the coop, outside the house. Clean these supplies outside as well.

Supervise Kids Around Flocks

Always supervise children around backyard poultry and ensure they wash their hands properly. Children younger than 5 years old should not touch chicks, ducklings, or other backyard poultry, as they are more likely to get sick from germs like Salmonella.

Handle Eggs Safely

Collect eggs frequently, as eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break. Discard any cracked eggs, as germs on the shell can easily enter through the cracks. Clean eggs with a brush, cloth, or fine sandpaper instead of washing them, as cold water can pull germs into the egg. Refrigerate eggs to keep them fresh and slow the growth of germs, and cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Cook egg dishes to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill any bacteria.

Monitor Your Health

If you experience severe symptoms such as diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F, diarrhea for more than three days that is not improving, bloody diarrhea, excessive vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down, or signs of dehydration (like not peeing much, dry mouth and throat, or dizziness when standing up), contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Advice for Poultry Retailers

Stores selling backyard poultry should source birds from hatcheries that reduce Salmonella contamination by following the USDA’s best management practices. Poultry display areas should be cleaned and sanitized between shipments, and handwashing stations or hand sanitizers should be provided next to poultry display areas. Display poultry out of reach of customers, especially children, to prevent direct contact. Provide health information to potential buyers, detailing how to stay healthy with backyard flocks.

Ongoing Investigations

Public health investigators are using DNA fingerprinting to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. Samples collected from poultry shipping boxes in Ohio and Utah match the Salmonella strains found in sick individuals. While most people with Salmonella recover without antibiotics, some strains may be resistant, complicating treatment.

The CDC continues to advise caution and proper hygiene around backyard poultry to control the spread of Salmonella.

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