The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today warned that handling live poultry or coming in contact with poultry cages or bedding can cause salmonella infection. At least 37 people in Colorado have become ill this year during a nationwide outbreak of a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to live baby poultry.
State health officials in Colorado, several other state health departments and the CDC have been investigating the outbreak, which has sickened 316 people in 37 states. The New Mexico Department of Health announced this week they have matched the strain found in the nationwide outbreak to a sample taken at a poultry hatchery in New Mexico. The human salmonella infections are linked to contact with chicks, ducklings and other live baby poultry purchased from multiple feed stores.
No deaths have been reported, but at least 51 people have been hospitalized. Sixty percent of the cases are in children aged 10 and younger.
In Colorado, cases have been reported from the following counties: Adams (3), Crowley (1), Dolores (1), Douglas (1), El Paso (9), Jefferson (4), Mesa (1), Montezuma (1), Otero (1), Park (1), Pueblo (10), Teller (1) and Weld (3). Nine people have been hospitalized, including six children, and all are recovering. The most recent illness began July 15. As in the nationwide outbreak, two-thirds of cases occurred in children, and the median age of cases was 7 years old.
Although salmonella infection usually is known as a foodborne illness, chicks, ducklings and other live poultry may have salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies (feathers, feet and beaks), even when they appear healthy and clean. While it usually doesn’t make the birds sick, salmonella can cause serious illness when it is passed to people.
State epidemiologists warn parents and caregivers to keep children 5 years of age and younger from handling live poultry, especially young birds such as chicks, ducklings, goslings and baby turkeys. Children are particularly at risk of illness because their immune systems are still developing, they are more likely to put their fingers or other items in their mouths and they are less likely than adults to wash their hands.
“There is a lot parents and others can do to prevent these infections,” said Alicia Cronquist, department epidemiologist. “As adorable as baby chicks and ducklings look, they are not good pets for young children because of the health risks associated with handling them.”
Cronquist advised people to follow these simple steps to protect themselves and others from getting sick:
· Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where live poultry live and roam. 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 thoroughly with soap and water.
· Clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages, or feed and water containers.
· Never bring live poultry inside the house, into bathrooms, or especially into areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
· Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.
Salmonella infection symptoms usually begin one to three days after exposure and include diarrhea, fever and stomach pain. Illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without medical treatment. However, in some people the symptoms may be severe enough to require hospitalization. Infants, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. When severe infection occurs, salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
To learn more about this outbreak and tips for decreasing your risk of getting salmonella infection from live baby poultry, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites at: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium-live-poultry-04-13/index.html andhttp://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium-live-poultry-04-13/advice-consumers.html