96 sick, mainly little kids; multistate outbreak of Salmonella Altona and Johannesburg infections linked to chicks and ducklings from a mail-order hatchery — United States, February–October 2011

I worry about this every time my daughter’s school brings in chicks and other animals. And I always make sure to ask if they are testing for salmonella and what kind of controls are in place. And I complain about parents parking in the handicapped spots. They think I’m crazy, but I’ll show them. Except no one wins with salmonella either.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is reporting that salmonella infections from contact with live poultry (chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese) continue to be a public health problem.

In summer 2011, two clusters of human Salmonella infections were identified through PulseNet, a molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance. Standard outbreak and traceback investigations were conducted. From February 25 to October 10, 2011, a cluster of 68 cases caused by Salmonella serotype Altona and a cluster of 28 cases caused by Salmonella Johannesburg were identified in 24 states. Among persons infected, 32% of those with Salmonella Altona and 75% of those with Salmonella Johannesburg were aged ≤5 years. Forty-two of 57 (74%) Salmonella Altona patients and 17 of 24 (71%) of Salmonella Johannesburg patients had contact with live poultry in the week preceding illness. Most patients or their parents reported purchasing chicks or ducklings from multiple locations of an agricultural feed store chain that was supplied by a single mail-order hatchery. Live poultry were purchased for either backyard flocks or as pets.

Live poultry are commonly purchased from agricultural feed stores or directly from mail-order hatcheries; approximately 50 million chicks are sold annually in the United States. Since 1990, approximately 35 outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry from mail-order hatcheries have been reported. These outbreaks highlight the ongoing risk for human Salmonella infections associated with live poultry contact, especially for young children.

In response to this ongoing public health problem, officials with local, state, and federal public and animal health agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP), the mail-order hatchery industry, and other partners have collaborated to develop and implement a comprehensive Salmonella control strategy. Mail-order hatcheries should comply with management and sanitation practices outlined in the USDA-NPIP Salmonellaguidelines and should avoid the shipment of hatched chicks between multiple hatcheries before shipping to customers. Educational materials warning customers of the risk for Salmonella infection from live poultry contact are available and should be distributed with all live poultry purchases.