A salmonella outbreak covering 21 states is now under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cause of the outbreak: chicks and ducklings.
The outbreak that has infected at least 52 people as of mid-May has prompted the CDC to issue a notice advising backyard flock owners to refrain from kissing or snuggling chickens and ducklings and then touching the face and mouth. Doing such could increase the risk of salmonella infection as epidemiologic and laboratory evidence traced the outbreaks to contact with backyard poultry.
Five of the infected individuals have been hospitalized, and 28 percent of all those who fell ill were children aged 5 years and below, with the youngest patients only less than a year old. The outbreak began in January and most infections were seen in Ohio, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. No deaths have been reported so far.
Salmonella Infections From Birds
Majority of the people who got infected reported contact with chicks and ducklings. They reportedly acquired the poultry animals from various sources such as agricultural stores, websites, and mail-order hatcheries.
Salmonella infection may induce diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps from 12 to 72 hours after one was exposed to the bacteria. The illness associated with the infection normally lasts four to seven days, and most patients often recover without treatment.
Salmonella infection may also spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and to other parts of the body. Cases involving severe diarrhea may require hospitalization. In rare cases, a patient may die due to the infection if not treated urgently with antibiotics.
People with weakened immune systems, young children, and senior adults are advised not to touch chicks, ducklings, or other poultry.
Necessary Precautions To Avoid Infections
Birds that carry Salmonella bacteria may appear healthy and clean, and show no signs of illness, according to CDC. To be safe and to prevent further infections, the health agency issued precautionary measures that backyard flock owners may follow when handling chicken and poultry animals.
Some of the measures are the following:
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water right after touching backyard poultry or anything in the area where the said animals live and roam.
- Adults must supervise the hand washing of young children.
- Don't allow backyard poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
- Use a separate pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of house.
- Do not eat or drink where poultry live or roam.
- Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for poultry, such as cages, or feed or water containers.
This is not the first time that the CDC urged owners not to cuddle their animals. Last March, the agency linked pet hedgehogs to an outbreak and warned owners to avoid cuddling pet hedgehogs because it could spread germs.