Backyard chickens and pathogen spread

Food Online reports that keeping backyard chickens was already on the rise, and the hobby has become even more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, a University of Georgia researcher cautions that the practice has risks not just for chickens, but for wildlife and people as well.

“As a researcher who studies pathogen movement along different groups, I see backyard chickens as a potential interface where pathogens can spill over into wild birds, or vice versa, and even into people,” said Sonia Hernandez, professor of wildlife disease at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Owners need to seek information and medical care for their animals to minimize those risks.”

Hernandez and first author Andrea Ayala published their comprehensive review of pathogen transmission at the backyard chicken-wild bird interface in Frontiers in Veterinary Science. Ayala, now a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University, earned a Ph.D. in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Comparative Biomedical Sciences program.

The most well-known pathogen carried by chickens is salmonella, and almost everyone is aware of it, said Hernandez. That’s due to public education and outreach efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health agencies.

Food is the source for most of the estimated 1.35 million salmonella infections in people every year in the United States, according to the CDC. Most people who get ill from salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, but there are 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths every year.

“They’re trying to stay on top of salmonella in backyard chickens because they have seen an explosion of salmonellosis in people as a result of this recent popularity of keeping chickens,” she said. “It can become especially dangerous if you mix little chickens with little people—young chickens that are shedding a lot of salmonella with small kids that don’t have the best hygiene practices.”
Ayala identified a number of practices that backyard chicken owners can implement to reduce the risk of pathogen emergence:

  • keeping backyard chicken feeders where only chickens can reach them getting rid of wild bird feeders;
  • using mesh small enough to prevent wild birds from interacting with chickens removing contaminated water sources, insects and rodents;
  • maintaining good hygiene—changing footwear, for example—when visiting different flocks; and,
  • limiting the number of visitors.

“As backyard chickens become more common, the interactions between wild birds and backyard chickens are also likely to increase,” Ayala said. “Wild birds are attracted to food, water and shelter, and backyard chickens provide all three.”

The researchers’ concerns and recommendations won’t be a surprise to people who are familiar with raising chickens, especially commercial growers, who are very aware of rules from agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture that oversee animal health, according to Hernandez.

“The people who will find it the most surprising are newcomers, who get a few chickens as a hobby and have never really thought about the health of their chickens, their own health, and the impact that chickens can have on their environment,” she said.

As Hernandez and Ayala document in their paper, it is well established that backyard chickens may serve as pathogen reservoirs to the commercial poultry industry and that the most likely mechanism of spillover involves wild birds. Perhaps the best documented example of a bacterial pathogen transmission from chickens to wild birds is Mycoplasma gallisepticum, a bacterium that causes chronic respiratory illness in chickens, which spilled over from poultry in 1994 into house finches and rapidly became endemic in North American passerine species.

The U.S. has experienced outbreaks of both Newcastle disease and avian influenza, including an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the winter of 2016-17 that involved several backyard operations, Hernandez said.

Food safety types investigate multistate foodborne illness outbreak from possible turkey products

A new foodborne illness outbreak taking place in multiple states is, according to Food Safety Magazine, being investigated by federal officials, with turkey products identified as the likely source.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service indicated the cause of the outbreak in its investigation table as “Salmonella Hadar, turkey suspect.”

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokeswoman confirmed that the CDC is investigating the outbreak. As of March 15, there have been 22 patients reported across nine states. 

Turkey has been the source of food poisoning outbreaks in the United States in both 2018 and 2019 investigations, involving Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Schwarzengrund, respectively. According to the CDC, the 2019 Salmonella outbreak sickened at least seven people in three states.

The 2018 outbreak involved at least 358 people in the United States who became sick, across 42 states. One death was confirmed, and the illnesses were linked to raw human and pet foods from many sources, including Jennie-O turkey, which recalled some of its products. At the same time in 2018, Canadian officials investigated an outbreak of Salmonella Reading linked to poultry products. Testing showed the same strain on both side of the U.S./Canada border.

Norway salmonella outbreak strain detected in imported beef from Germany

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has, according to Outbreak News Today, in collaboration with the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, detected Salmonella enteritidis with the outbreak profile in a batch of beef imported from Germany.

The imported batch of beef is used for, among other things, chop dough. This product has been withdrawn from the market. Some of the imported batch of beef has also been sold to other companies and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority is still working to trace this.

This agrees well with the information we have from the cases that have so far been interviewed, where several state that they have tasted raw chop dough, says doctor Hilde Marie Lund.

I would also like to remind you of the importance of frying chop dough and minced meat as an important preventive piece of advice, adds doctor Hilde Marie Lund.

Of the total of 22 cases, 19 have so far been detected in the Salmonella enteritidis outbreak strain. For 3 of the cases, we are awaiting a final confirmation, but preliminary analyzes indicate that these belong to the outbreak. In addition, we are awaiting analysis of one case.

New study from space station looks at human cells infected with Salmonella

In a new study published in the journal npj Microgravity, scientists and astronauts conducted experiments with human cells and pathogens to see how the two would change and interface differently in a low-gravity environment. The researchers used the microbial species salmonella typhimurium to infect human cells in controlled experiments on Earth and on the International Space Station.

Chia-Yi Hou of Changing America writes the researchers found that there were changes in RNA and protein expression in the human cells in a microgravity environment. They also found that salmonella was able to cause the human cells to upregulate — increase the rate or level of — expression of compounds that would help fight an infection in both cells that were inflight and on the ground.

Inflight cells upregulated genes that were associated with inflammation, one of the human body’s mechanisms for fighting pathogens. Other genes that are related to virulence or stress regulators were also upregulated in the cells in space compared to the cells on the ground.

20 sick: Salmonella in Norway

Outbreak News Today reports the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is reporting a Salmonella outbreak which is geographically spread over large parts of country.

Twenty cases have been reported–12 confirmed and 8 suspected cases. The same genetic profile have been detected in all 12 confirmed cases. Preliminary analyzes of samples from the 8 suspected cases indicate that these also carry the outbreak strain.

Those affected are aged from 11 to 91 years, median age is 59 years. 60% are women. 

“The infected live in many different counties. Therefore, we believe that they are infected through a food that is widely distributed”, says doctor Hilde Marie Lund at the department of infection control and emergency preparedness.

“Investigation work can be complicated and time consuming, and in many cases it will not be possible to find the source of the infection or to clarify whether it is a common source. It is too early to say whether this is a limited outbreak or whether it will increase in scope. We follow the situation closely”, says doctor Hilde Marie Lund.

Humans and animals both at risk from contaminated pet food

Some time about 2009, I was walking the dogs on a Sunday morning on the Kansas State University campus with a Canadian graduate student who was getting her MS degree at K-State, and we ran into University president, Jon Wefald.

We exchanged pleasantries, he was enamored by the dogs, and soon the conversation turned a pet food recall that had sickened dozens of humans with some bad bug.

Jon asked me, how are people getting sick from pet food and I explained the sometimes lack of process validation in pet food, the wonderful world of cross-contamination, of and that sometimes people ate pet food directly.

Jon was aghast.

I was, meh.

So that’ why these pet food recalls s are important, because the product can all to easily sicken humans along with their pets.

Bravo Packing, Inc. has recalled all Ground Beef and Performance Dog frozen raw pet food because it may be contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses have been reported, but pets who eat the food and people who handle it can become sick with Salmonella and/or Listeria infections.

The recall involves Performance Dog and Ground Beef Raw Pet Food, which are both sold frozen in 2-pound and 5-pound plastic sleeves.

Bravo Packing issued the recall voluntarily after product samples of Performance Dog and a sample of Ground Beef tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria after an FDA inspection.

The FDA warns that pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, vomiting, decreased appetite, abdominal pain, or show no symptoms at all.

22 sick, 1 dead: Small turtles linked to Salmonella outbreak

I’ve written before about small turtles as my only pet when I was a young child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that a Salmonella outbreak in seven states is being linked back to small turtles.

According to the notice posted on Tuesday, there have been 22 reported illnesses linked to the outbreak, including eight hospitalizations and one death.

The CDC says that pet turtles carry germs in their droppings even when they appear clean and healthy, which can spread in their tank and anything they come into contact with.

People can get sick from touching the turtle and anything in its environment after touching their mouth and swallowing the Salmonella germs, the CDC says.

The CDC also asks people to avoid kissing or snuggling turtles and to not eat or drink around them.

57 sick: Outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to eggs in Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella infections involving Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. The outbreak appears to be ongoing, as recent illnesses continue to be reported to PHAC.

Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to eggs has been identified as a likely source of the outbreak. Many of the individuals who became sick reported consuming, preparing, cooking and baking at home with eggs. Some individuals reported exposure to eggs at an institution (including nursing homes and hospitals) where they resided or worked before becoming ill.

Eggs can sometimes be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria on the shell and inside the egg. The bacteria are most often transmitted to people when they improperly handle, eat or cook contaminated foods.

Illnesses can be prevented if proper safe food handing and cooking practices are followed. PHAC is not advising consumers to avoid eating properly cooked eggs, but this outbreak serves as a reminder that Canadians should always handle raw eggs carefully and cook eggs and egg-based foods to an internal temperature of at least 74 C (165 F) to ensure they are safe to eat.

PHAC is issuing this public health notice to inform Canadians of the investigation findings to date and to share important safe food handling practices to help prevent further Salmonella infections.

As the outbreak investigation is ongoing, it is possible that additional sources could be identified, and food recall warnings related to this outbreak may be issued. This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.

As of February 18, 2021, there have been 57 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritidis illness investigated in the following provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador (25), and Nova Scotia (32). Individuals became sick between late October 2020 and late January 2021. Nineteen individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 2 and 98 years of age. The majority of cases (68%) are female.

Between October and December 2020, CFIA issued food recall warnings for a variety of eggs distributed in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The recalled eggs are now past their shelf-life and are no longer available for purchase. Some individuals who became sick in this outbreak reported exposure to recalled eggs; however, there are a number of recent ill individuals that do not.

It is possible that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because there is a period of time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between three and six weeks.

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but young childrenthe elderlypregnant women or people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for contracting serious illness.

Most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days. It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

Raw or undercooked eggs and egg-based foods carrying Salmonella may look, smell and taste normal, so it’s important to always follow safe food-handling tips if you are buying, cleaning, chilling, cooking and storing any type of eggs or egg-based foods. If contaminated, the Salmonella may be found on the shell itself or may be inside the egg. The following food preparation tips may help reduce your risk of getting sick, but they may not fully eliminate the risk of illness.

  • Always handle raw eggs carefully and cook eggs and egg-based foods to an internal temperature of at least 74°C (165°F) to ensure they are safe to eat.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
  • When purchasing eggs, choose only refrigerated eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
  • Always wash your hands before and after you touch raw eggs. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Eggs (whether raw or cooked) should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Eggs that have been at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown out.
  • Use pasteurized egg products instead of raw eggs when preparing foods that aren’t heated (such as icing, eggnog or Caesar salad dressing).
  • Do not taste raw dough, batter or any other product containing raw eggs. Eating even a small amount could make you sick.
  • Microwave cooking of raw eggs is not recommended because of the possibility of uneven heating.
  • Sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils before and after preparing eggs or egg-based foods. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 mL household bleach to 750 mL of water), and rinse with water.
  • Do not re-use plates, cutting boards or utensils that have come in contact with raw eggs unless they have been thoroughly washed, rinsed and sanitized.
  • Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria. Avoid using sponges as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
  • Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with a Salmonella infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal or contaminated product.
Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting

These symptoms usually last for 4 to 7 days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment, but sometimes antibiotics may be required. In some cases, severe illness may occur and hospitalization may be required. People who are infected with Salmonella bacteria can be infectious from several days to several weeks. People who experience symptoms, or who have underlying medical conditions, should contact their health care provider if they suspect they have a Salmonella infection.

The Public Health Agency of Canada leads the human health investigation into an outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal, provincial and territorial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address an outbreak.

Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine whether the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak.

Foodborne illness source attribution estimates for 2018 for Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter using multi-year outbreak surveillance data, United States, December 2020

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in Dec.2020 that each year in the U.S.an estimated 9 million people get sick, 56,000 are hospitalized, and 1,300 die of foodborne disease caused by known pathogens. These estimates help us understand the scope of this public health problem. However, to develop effective prevention measures, we need to understand the types of foods contributing to the problem.

The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) is a tri-agency group created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS). IFSAC developed a method to estimate the percentages of foodborne illness attributed to certain sources using outbreak data from 1998 through the most recent year for four priority pathogens: Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter. IFSAC described this method and the estimates for 2012 in a report, peer-reviewed journal article, and at a public meeting. IFSAC derived the estimates for 2018 using the same method used for the 2012 estimates, with some modifications. The data came from 1,459 foodborne disease outbreaks that occurred from 1998 through 2018 and for which each confirmed or suspected implicated food was assigned to a single food category. The method relies most heavily on the most recent five years of outbreak data (2014 – 2018). Foods are categorized using a scheme IFSAC created that classifies foods into 17 categories that closely align with the U.S. food regulatory agencies’ classification needs. Salmonella illnesses came from a wide variety of foods.

More than 75% of Salmonella illnesses were attributed to seven food categories: Chicken, Seeded Vegetables (such as tomatoes), Pork, Fruits, Other Produce (such as nuts), Eggs and Turkey. E. coli O157 illnesses were most often linked to Vegetable Row Crops (such as leafy greens) and Beef. Over 75% of illnesses were linked to these two categories. Listeria monocytogenes illnesses were most often linked to Dairy products and Fruits. More than 75% of illnesses were attributed to these two categories, but the rarity of Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks makes these estimates less reliable than those for other pathogens. Non-Dairy Campylobacter illnesses were most often linked to Chicken. Over 75% of non-Dairy foodborne illnesses were attributed to Chicken, Other Seafood (such as shellfish), and Turkey, with Campylobacter illnesses most often linked to Chicken. An attribution percentage for Dairy is not included because, among other reasons, most foodborne Campylobacter outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk, which is not widely consumed, and we think these over-represent Dairy as a source of illness caused by Campylobacter. Removing Dairy illnesses from the calculations highlights important sources of illness from widely consumed foods, such as Chicken.

This collaborative effort to provide annual attribution estimates continues IFSAC’s work to improve foodborne illness source attribution, which can help inform efforts to prioritize food safety initiatives, interventions, and policies for reducing foodborne illnesses. These consensus estimates allow all three agencies to take a consistent approach to identifying food safety priorities to protect public health. For more information on IFSAC projects visit https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/ifsac/projects/index.html.

A reason to get married at City Hall: Dozens of guests at Jamaica resort sickened by likely salmonella outbreak

Lisa Fickenscher of the New York Post writes that an apparent salmonella outbreak at a resort in Jamaica in Dec. has ruined vacations for potentially dozens of holiday travelers — and now some sickened guests are considering legal action, The Post has learned.

“It was a nightmare,” Chantel Ele of Lincoln, Nebraska, told The Post of her experience at the Grand Palladium Resort and Spa, which was echoed by other people online. “I don’t know how many people go on an all-inclusive vacation and lose weight.” 

Ele and her husband, Justin, secured their room at the 537-room beachside resort, which boasts 11 restaurants, 17 bars and “one of the largest swimming pools in the Caribbean,” in February before the pandemic hit.

But the island getaway dissolved into severe stomach and body cramps and diarrhea within two days of their arrival on Dec. 13 — tethering them to a bathroom at all times, Justin told The Post.

Aaron Sutton and his fiancé Cheyenne also had trouble in paradise. The couple, who live in Pittsburgh, squeezed in about 48 hours of fun before they were both felled by unrelenting diarrhea and vomiting on Dec. 14, they said. They booked their $4,000 honeymoon trip to the Palladium resort last year after getting engaged in Jamaica, and held on to the reservation despite being forced to postpone their wedding.

“My fiancé was so weak and feverish, she could barely stand up,” Sutton told The Post.

Iwaspoisoned.com, a platform that tracks food-borne illnesses, has tallied the number of guests who have allegedly become ill at the resort in December at close to 100, said the site’s founder Patrick Quade, who based the tally on reports to websites like TripAdvisor, Orbitz, Booking.com and the resort’s Facebook page.