Recent cases of salmonella illnesses in Washington state serve as a reminder of the importance of practicing good hygiene when handling or working around poultry.
Earlier this month, the state Department of Health reported 16 confirmed cases of salmonella originating from live poultry in a dozen counties on both sides of the state. Though no deaths have been reported, five people were hospitalized.
Our local cases are part of a larger, multistate outbreak of human salmonella linked to live poultry. As with the Washington state cases, those who became sick reported obtaining poultry from feed supply stores, hatcheries, relatives or from the web.
Salmonella is a bacteria that can be found on live poultry dropping, feathers, feet and beaks. People become infected when those germs make contact with the mouth area.
Certain factors can speed the spread of salmonella, such as the inclination of young children to handle ducklings and chicks, which are in turn more likely to shed salmonella bacteria in their droppings. Since children are less likely than adults to wash their hands after handling these animals, it is vital that adults supervise children to ensure they practice good hygiene when handling poultry.
Symptoms of salmonella in humans include fever, diarrhea, and stomach pain. These symptoms tend to show up within three days of infection, and while symptoms can go away on their own, severe cases can require medical attention.
Healthy poultry can carry salmonella, so it’s important to maintain proper care of and hygiene around poultry.
Although outbreaks are becoming more common as more people are getting backyard flocks, salmonella isn’t inevitable if you live or work around poultry. Diligent hygienic practices decrease the chances of contracting poultry-related illnesses.
The best defense is washing hands with soap and water after handling. And while poultry, and baby chicks in particular, can invite affectionate handling, never nuzzle or kiss live poultry.
Other prevention methods recommended by the Centers for Disease Control include:
• Keeping pens outdoors, as well as any equipment used around poultry.
• Thoroughly cooking and handling eggs from hens.
• Refraining from eating or drinking around poultry.
• Supervision of young children around live poultry.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control webpage, Keeping Backyard Chickens, for more information salmonella and poultry.