(RxWiki News) The word Salmonella often brings to mind eating contaminated food, like chicken or eggs. But live poultry can also be a carrier for the bacteria and people can become ill through contact with these animals.
In a current multistate outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium, 316 people have become ill. Most of the patients have had contact with live birds.
The investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently pointing to a hatchery in New Mexico as a source of the outbreak.
"Wash your hands after contact with live birds."
According to CDC, infections have been reported in 37 states across the US. Colorado and Texas have reported the most cases so far, with 37 cases identified in Colorado and 32 in Texas.
Detailed information is known for 199 of the patients. Of these patients, 26 percent (51 people) have been hospitalized. Over half of the patients (59 percent) are children aged 10 or younger.
According to CDC, 81 percent of patients reported contact with live poultry during the week before they became sick. Even more (97 percent) reported recently purchasing live poultry from agricultural feed stores.
CDC has identified 113 feed stores, 33 feed store companies and 18 mail order hatcheries that may potentially be involved. However, the investigation has begun to center on one source.
"Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback findings have linked this outbreak of human Salmonella Typhimurium infections to contact with chicks, ducklings, and other live baby poultry sourced from Privett Hatchery in Portales, New Mexico," CDC reported.
This hatchery is a nationwide supplier of live baby poultry (including chicks and ducklings) to feed stores and to consumers directly through mail order.
In a statement from the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH), DOH Secretary Retta Ward noted that Privett Hatchery had been cooperative during the investigation and had conducted multiple tests.
In a separate statement, Privett Hatchery said that it is working with authorities as they investigate the outbreak and reminded customers that "chicks purchased from any hatchery should be considered farm animals — not pets — and should be treated as such."
Infected poultry often appear healthy and clean despite carrying Salmonella, said CDC. In the current outbreak, many of the patients have reported bringing the poultry into their homes and having close contact with the birds, including kissing or cuddling.
“The Department wants to remind parents not to keep live baby poultry in their homes," said Ward. "Any time anyone handles baby ducklings or chicks, they need to wash their hands thoroughly to reduce the risk of contracting Salmonella.”
Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. According to CDC, the illness typically lingers for about four to seven days then usually goes away on its own.
In some cases, the infection can become serious and spread to the bloodstream. Severe illness is more common in young children under the age of 5, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.