Stop kissing chicks; more Salmonella from backyard chicks

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as of May 27, 2014, a total of 126 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis or Salmonella Newport have been identified in 26 states. Since the last update on May 8, 2014, a total of 66 new ill persons have been reported from 18 states: Alabama (4), Colorado (1), Georgia (5), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Kentucky (2), Maine (4), Montana (1), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (1), New York (6), North Carolina (11), Ohio (7), Pennsylvania (7), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (5), Virginia (5), and West Virginia (1).

baby.chickAmong the persons who reported the date they became ill, illnesses began between and February 4, 2014 and May 15, 2014. Ill persons range in age from younger than one year to 95 years, and the median age is 28 years. Thirty-nine percent of ill persons are 10 years of age or younger.  Fifty percent of ill persons are female. Among 81 ill persons with available information, 28 (35%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health agencies indicate that contact with live poultry sourced from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella infections.

Interviews with newly reported ill persons about their exposures in the week before becoming ill continue to be conducted. To date, 72 (82%) of 88 ill persons interviewed reported contact with live poultry (e.g., chicks, chickens, ducks, ducklings) before becoming ill.  Eight (11%) of 72 reported contact with only adult chickens and 5 (7%) of 72 reported contact with only ducklings.  The median time from acquiring live poultry and illness onset was 24 days, with a range of 3 to 468 days. Samples from live poultry and the environments where the poultry live and roam were collected from an ill person’s home in Vermont. Testing of these samples yielded one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella Infantis. These birds were sourced from Mt. Healthy Hatcheries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMt. Healthy Hatcheries sells birds to many different retailers. Fifty-two (90%) of 58 ill persons with available purchase information reported purchasing live poultry from seven different feed or farm store companies in multiple states. Ill persons reported purchasing live poultry for backyard flocks to produce eggs or meat, or to keep as pets.

Contact with live poultry can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Many ill persons in this outbreak reported bringing the live poultry into their homes, and others reported kissing or cuddling with the live poultry. These behaviors increase a person’s risk of a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry. People can get sick even if they do not have direct contact with the live poultry, but touch items and places that have been contaminated in the poultry’s environment. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children. These recommendations are important and apply to all live poultry regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased.

Mail-order hatcheries, agricultural feed stores, and others who sell or display chicks, ducklings and other live poultry should provide health-related information to owners and potential purchasers of these birds prior to the point of purchase. This should include information about the risk of acquiring a Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.