Hundreds of people across the United States have become ill from salmonella, and the cause is likely contact with backyard chickens.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of July 28, 938 people from 48 states are infected with salmonella.
Thirty-three percent of those people have been hospitalized, and one death was reported in Oklahoma. Twenty-eight percent of those who became ill are children under the age of five.
In interviews with 409 ill people, 74% reported coming into contact with chicks or ducklings purchased at agricultural stores, off websites and from hatcheries.
Researchers tested backyard chicken coops in Kentucky and Oregon and found three salmonella outbreak strains.
According to the CDC, poultry can carry salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. People exposed to poultry should take the following precautions:
- Wash your hands right after touching backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.
- Don’t kiss backyard poultry or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.
- Don’t let backyard poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
- Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.
- Don’t 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 and containers for feed or water.
- Always supervise children around poultry and while they wash their hands.
- Children younger than 5 years of age shouldn’t handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other poultry, as young children are more likely to get sick.
People handling eggs should do so safely by:
- Collecting eggs often. Eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break.
- Throwing away cracked eggs. Germs on the shell can more easily enter the egg though a cracked shell.
- Cleaning eggs with fine sandpaper, a brush, or a cloth.
- Don’t wash warm, fresh eggs because colder water can pull germs into the egg.
- Refrigerate eggs after collection to maintain freshness and slow germ growth.
- Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F or hotter. Raw and undercooked eggs may contain salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.