An outbreak of Salmonella infections traced to backyard poultry flocks has sickened 219 people, resulting in 27 hospitalizations and one death, according to an update from the CDC.
Of those sick, one-fourth are children younger than 5 years old. Epidemiologic data show that contact with backyard poultry is making people sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The outbreak has been detected in 38 states and the CDC’s investigation is ongoing. Illnesses started on dates ranging from Feb. 15 to May 19, 2022.
“The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 2 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak,” according to the CDC.
- Backyard poultry can carry Salmonella germs even if they look healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread in areas where the poultry live and roam.
- These outbreaks occur annually and coincide with the increase in baby poultry purchases, beginning in the spring. In 2021, a total of 1,135 people got sick from contact with backyard poultry.
- These Salmonella outbreaks are not related to recent cases of H5N1 bird flu viruses detected in U.S. wild birds and poultry. However, backyard poultry owners should be aware that the steps needed to stay healthy around their flocks are similar for both diseases.
Steps to enjoy your birds while staying healthy:
- Always wash your hands for 20 seconds after touching birds, their supplies or collecting eggs.
- Use a pair of dedicated shoes or boots for your coop and don’t wear them inside your house.
- Keep birds and 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. This helps protect young children from getting sick, as their immune systems are still developing, are more likely to put items in their mouths or not wash hands fully.
About Salmonella infections
Foods that are contaminated with Salmonella bacteria usually do not look, smell or taste spoiled. Animals usually do not appear sick. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but 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 had contact with backyard flocks or farm animals — such as those at petting zoos — and developed symptoms of 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 need to be hospitalized.
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.
It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.