More salmonella cases tied to backyard chickens, ducks

File photo of a chicken in a backyard.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 10 separate multi-state outbreaks of salmonella infection in people who had contact with backyard chickens and ducks.

A reported 961 people in 48 states and the District of Columbia have been infected since the beginning of this year. Two hundred fifteen people have been hospitalized and one death has been reported.

CDC researchers say their investigation ties the outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as baby chicks and ducklings from multiple hatcheries. In nearly three quarters of the cases, those who were sickened reported contact with live poultry in the week before becoming ill.

According to the CDC, backyard chickens and ducks can carry salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean with no signs of illness. Contact with the infected birds or their environment can cause humans to become sick.

Symptoms of salmonella infection include nausea and vomiting, blood in the stool, fever, chills and abdominal pain.

The CDC offers the following advice for people who keep flocks at their homes:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.
  • Don't let live poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Don't let children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, or people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or organ transplants, handle or touch live poultry.
  • Don't eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Avoid kissing your birds or snuggling them, then touching your mouth.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers.

When collecting and handling eggs from a backyard flock, follow these tips from the CDC to keep you and your family safe:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling eggs, chickens, or anything in their environment.
  • Maintain a clean coop. Cleaning the coop, floor, nests and perches on a regular basis will help to keep eggs clean.
  • Collect eggs often. Eggs that spend a significant amount of time in the nest can become dirty or break. Cracked eggs should be thrown away.
  • Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush or cloth. Don't wash eggs, because colder water can pull bacteria into the egg.
  • Refrigerate eggs after collection.
  • Cook eggs thoroughly. Raw and undercooked eggs contain salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.
  • Know the local regulations around sale of eggs. If you sell eggs, it is important to follow local licensing requirements.
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