More than a dozen salmonella outbreaks across the country are being investigated by officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health officials.
15 outbreaks spanning 48 states are currently under investigation. According to an update from the CDC, the outbreaks have been linked back to contact with poultry in "backyard flocks," such as chicks and ducklings.
Outbreaks have been linked to backyard flocks in the past, but the CDC says that the number of illnesses reported this year is higher than previous years. As of July 28, 938 cases have been reported, with at least 151 requiring hospitalization. One death has been reported in Oklahoma.
Humans can contract a salmonella infection from touching backyard poultry or their environment, and the animals can carry the bacteria that causes the infection even if they appear healthy. The CDC advises against kissing and snuggling backyard birds.
If you do have a backyard flock of chicks, ducklings, or other animals, wash your hands after touching poultry, their eggs or their habitats. Keep birds outside the house, and supervise young children who may be exposed to the animals. According to the CDC, 28% of ill people are children younger than 5 years of age and children in general are more likely to get sick from germs like salmonella.
The CDC also urges care if your birds are laying eggs — be sure to collect them often, discard cracked eggs and wash eggs that are contaminated with dirt and debris using a brush, cloth or fine sandpaper. Refrigerate eggs after collecting, and make sure to cook them to an internal temperature of 160 degrees before consuming.
No single store chain or hatchery accounts for all the illnesses, and according to the CDC, affected people reported buying poultry from many sources, including agricultural stores, websites and hatcheries.
Most people infected with salmonella develop symptoms, including diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, within six hours to six days of being exposed to the bacteria. The illness typically lasts between four and seven days, and most people recover without treatment. Children younger than five, adults 65 or older and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe reaction.
According to the CDC, the investigation into the outbreaks is still ongoing.