Outbreaks of Salmonella Infections Linked to Backyard Poultry

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Posted July 29, 2020 at 6:00 PM ET

CDC and public health officials in 48 states are investigating 15 multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections linked to contact with poultry in backyard flocks, such as chicks and ducklings. The number of illnesses reported this year exceeds the number reported at the same time of the year in previous outbreaks linked to backyard flocks.

Stay healthy around your backyard flock by washing your hands, keeping your birds outside your house, and supervising young children around your flock.

Latest Outbreak Information
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At A Glance

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  • Since the last update on June 24, 2020, 473 more ill people were added to this investigation.
  • As of July 28, 2020, 938 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 48 states.
    • 151 people (33% of those with information available) have been hospitalized.
    • One death in Oklahoma has been reported.
    • 28% of ill people are children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence shows that contact with backyard poultry (such as chicks and ducklings) is the likely source of these outbreaks.
    • In interviews with 409 ill people, 303 (74%) reported contact with chicks and ducklings.
    • People reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including agricultural stores, websites, and hatcheries.
    • Testing of backyard poultry and their environments (such as backyard coops) in Kentucky and Oregon found three of the outbreak strains.
Advice to Backyard Flock Owners
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You can get sick with a Salmonella infection from touching backyard poultry or their environment. Backyard poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean and show no signs of illness. Follow these tips to stay healthy with your backyard flock:

Wash your hands.

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.
  • Adults should supervise handwashing by young children.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.

Be safe around poultry.

  • Don’t kiss backyard poultry or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.
  • Don’t let backyard poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.
  • Don’t eat or drink where poultry live or roam.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for poultry, such as cages and containers for feed or water.

Supervise kids around poultry.

  • Always supervise children around poultry and while they wash their hands.
  • Children younger than 5 years of age shouldn’t handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other poultry. Young children are more likely to get sick from germs like Salmonella.

Handle eggs safely.

  • Collect eggs often. Eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break.
  • Throw away cracked eggs. Germs on the shell can more easily enter the egg though a cracked shell.
  • Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned carefully with fine sandpaper, a brush, or a cloth.
  • Don’t wash warm, fresh eggs because colder water can pull germs into the egg.
  • Refrigerate eggs after collection to maintain freshness and slow germ growth.
  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter. Raw and undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.

For a complete list of recommendations, visit the Healthy Pets, Healthy People website section on backyard poultry.

Advice to Stores That Sell or Display Poultry
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  • Source poultry from hatcheries that have adopted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) best management practices to mitigate Salmonella contaminationpdf iconexternal icon and those which voluntarily participate in the USDA’s National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP) U.S. Salmonella Monitored Programpdf iconexternal icon.
  • Provide health information to owners and potential buyers of poultry before purchase (see sample flyer below). This should include information about the risk of getting a Salmonella infection from contact with poultry.
    • A flyerpdf icon describing the risk of Salmonella infections from contact with poultry and prevention recommendations is available.
  • Place health information in clear view where poultry are displayed.
  • Provide handwashing stations or hand sanitizer next to poultry display areas and tell customers to wash hands right after leaving these areas.
  • Display poultry out of reach of customers, especially chil­dren, so customers cannot easily touch poultry.
  • Clean and sanitize the areas where poultry are displayed between shipments of new poultry. Be sure to remove debris first so that the disinfectant is applied to a surface that is generally clean. Apply the disinfectant on the surface for the proper contact time listed on the disinfectant label.
  • More information on displaying animals in public settings is in the 2017 Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settingsexternal icon.
Advice to Mail-Order Hatcheries
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  • Mail-order hatcheries should provide health-related information to owners and potential purchasers before they buy any poultry (see example below). This should include information about preventing Salmonella infections from contact with poultry.
    • A flyerpdf icon describing the risk of Salmonella infections from contact with poultry and prevention recommendations is available.
Symptoms of Salmonella Infection
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  • Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 6 hours to 6 days after being exposed to the bacteria.
  • The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
  • In some people, the illness may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.
  • Children younger than 5 years of age, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
  • For more information, see Symptoms of Salmonella Infection.
Investigation Details

July 29, 2020

Since the last update on June 24, 2020, 473 more ill people and four additional Salmonella serotypes (Braenderup, Muenchen, Thompson, and Typhimurium) were added to this investigation.

As of July 28, 2020, a total of 938 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 48 states. A list of the states and the number of cases in each is on the map of reported cases page.

Illnesses started on dates from January 14, 2020, to July 14, 2020. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 94 years, with a median age of 32. Fifty-six percent are female. Of 461 people with information available, 151 (33%) have been hospitalized. One death in Oklahoma has been reported.

If antibiotics are needed, some infections related to these outbreaks may be difficult to treat with some commonly recommended antibiotics and may require a different antibiotic choice. Whole genome sequencing performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from 597 ill people predicted antibiotic resistance to one or more of the following antibiotics: amoxicillin-clavulanic acid (1.4%), ampicillin (4.0%), cefoxitin (1.4%), ceftriaxone (1.4%), chloramphenicol (0.8%), ciprofloxacin (0.1%), fosfomycin (2.8%), gentamicin (1.2%), kanamycin (0.4%), streptomycin (63.4%), sulfisoxazole (4.4%), tetracycline (63.5%), and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (2.6%). There was no antibiotic resistance predicted for 249 (29.4%) isolates. Testing of 10 outbreak isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory confirmed these results (fosfomycin and kanamycin were not tested by this method).

Investigation of the Outbreaks

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence shows that contact with poultry (such as chicks and ducklings) in backyard flocks is the likely source of these outbreaks.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about animal contact in the week before they became ill. Of 409 people interviewed, 303 (74%) reported contact with chicks and ducklings before becoming ill.

Testing of backyard poultry and their environments (such as backyard coops) in Kentucky and Oregon found three of the outbreak strains.

Ill people reported buying poultry from many sources, including agricultural stores, websites, and hatcheries. No single store chain or hatchery accounts for all of the illnesses.

Regardless of where backyard poultry are purchased, they can carry Salmonella germs that can make people sick. Backyard poultry owners should always follow steps to stay healthy around their flocks.

This investigation is ongoing, and CDC will provide updates when more information becomes available.

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