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CDC: Salmonella outbreak tied to live poultry
May 31st, 2012
05:18 PM ET

CDC: Salmonella outbreak tied to live poultry

You've probably heard a lot about salmonella in reference to food poisoning, but the latest outbreak isn't about eating cooked animals - it's about touching live ones.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that 93 people in a total of 23 states have been infected with strains of salmonella: specifically, strains known as Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport, and Salmonella Lille.  Of those affected, 18 patients have been hospitalized and one death may be related to the outbreak under investigation too.

A large portion - 37% - of the those infected are 10 years old or younger, according to the CDC.

Salmonella infection causes bad diarrhea generally. But in some people - especially young children, elderly persons or those who have weakened immune systems - can have more serious symptoms and even die.

The origin of this outbreak appears to be chicks and ducklings that came from a mail-order hatchery in Ohio, public health officials have determined.  The hatchery was also implicated in a 2011 outbreak of salmonella infections.  This month, veterinarians inspected the hatchery and made recommendations to improve conditions.

Many of the people who got sick in this outbreak were buying poultry for backyard flocks, for eggs and meat, said Dr. Ian Williams, Chief of the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch at the CDC.  Chicken and ducks can appear perfectly healthy but still shed salmonella in their droppings.

"If you don't wash your hands carefully after you're handling your chickens and cleaning up after them, you can bring salmonella into the house and contaminate the foods you eat," Williams said.

In the last couple of years, there has been increasing interest in people keeping poultry in their backyard, a trend that may contribute to this outbreak, Williams said.  There is also better detection of salmonella throughout the United States through a surveillance network called PulseNet.

The CDC has several tips for keeping safe around live poultry: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you touch these animals, and don't let children under 5 handle them.  That's because they may snuggle with the chicks or kiss them, which can transmit bacteria, says Williams. The CDC also discourages giving small chicks as presents to children.  The agency also recommends against keeping live poultry inside your house.  It's best for everyone if the birds live outside.


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