rooster and chickens

Backyard poultry linked to recent salmonella outbreaks

By Dr. Maria Rometo
Extension Agent II

Recent Salmonella outbreaks associated with backyard poultry handling have infected more than 600 people in 45 states, including Florida, prompting health experts to re-issue guidelines for poultry handling.

The outbreaks have occurred since January, and are under investigation by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and agencies in numerous affected states, according to the CDC web site. At last count, 138 people have been hospitalized, and 195 (or almost a third of the total) illnesses reported were in children age 5 or younger.

Investigators have linked the outbreaks to contact with live chicks, ducklings, and other poultry in backyard flocks. While experts expect the outbreaks to continue for months, given that some flock owners might be unaware of the Salmonella risk associated with poultry, they offer the following advice:

chicken chicks in grass

  • Regardless of where they were purchased, all live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean.
  • These outbreaks are a reminder to follow steps to enjoy your backyard flock and keep your family healthy.
  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.
  • Do not let live poultry inside the house.
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without adult supervision.

Note that CDC’s recommendations for prevention of potentially transferrable diseases from backyard poultry apply to all pets, according to the agency’s pet documentation. For example, the CDC’s pet pages note that cats and dogs each can carry more than a dozen germs that can cause a range of illnesses in humans.

Read CDC’s recommendations for taking care of your backyard flock, which apply to all live poultry, regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased. Additionally, UF/IFAS offers handling advice through the Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS); specifically at “What Are the Risks of Contracting Diseases Associated with Chickens?” (Publication #ENY724).

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