Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Contact with Live Poultry

Even cute, seemingly healthy baby chicks and ducks can carry Salmonella bacteria. Photo by Judy Biss

Last summer the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 611 people from 45 states got Salmonella infections from contact with their poultry. This year, through the end of May 2017, 372 people from 47 states have gotten sick from Salmonella infections related to poultry. Of the 372, 71 were hospitalized, and 133 (36%) of the ill people were children under the age of 5. No deaths have been reported.

Number of outbreak strain Salmonella cases by state. Source:

Poultry can carry Salmonella and show no signs of illness. Salmonella germs are spread from poultry through their droppings. The droppings or anything that has been in contact with droppings (the birds’ feet, legs, feathers, cages, etc.) can have Salmonella germs present. When humans come into contact with a contaminated surface they can pick up the germs. In order for Salmonella to make people sick it must enter the body, usually through the mouth. Careful, thorough, hand washing is key to protecting yourself from Salmonella if you are in contact with live poultry or facilities where poultry have been kept.

People become infected with Salmonella when they put their contaminated hands or other things that have been in contact with live poultry in or around their mouth. Young children are more likely to get sick because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put their fingers or other items into their mouths. Some people who have contact with items in the area where poultry live can become ill without actually touching one of the birds. Germs on your hands can spread easily to other people or surfaces, which is why it’s important to wash hands immediately after touching poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Centers for Disease Control

CDC’s Advice for Small Poultry Flock Owners

Contact with live poultry and their environment can make people sick with Salmonella infections. Live poultry can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. Follow these steps for protecting yourself and others while enjoying backyard poultry:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Also wash your hands after handling clothes and shoes that have touched live poultry. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Do not let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
    • Do not eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry. People in these groups are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.
  • Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages, feed, or water containers.
  • 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.
Source: Centers for Disease Control

Human Salmonella Infection Symptoms and Treatment

According to the CDC, Salmonella infections in people may cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. Salmonella infections in people are usually resolved within 5-7 days with minimal treatment, other than drinking plenty of fluids. Severe diarrhea may require hospitalization for re-hydration with intravenous fluids. Make physicians aware of potential contamination from contact with poultry. Lab tests are recommended to determine if Salmonella is the cause of the illness. Infants, elderly persons, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. In cases of severe infection, Salmonella can spread from the intestines through the bloodstream throughout the body. Death can result from severe infections without prompt antibiotic treatment.

Links to more information on this subject:

Salmonella Infections Linked to Live Poultry in 2017

CDC’s Salmonella website

What Are the Risks of Contracting Diseases Associated with Chickens?



Posted: July 7, 2017

Category: Agriculture
Tags: Ag In The News, Disease, Food Safety, Panhandle Agriculture, Poultry

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