CDC blames backyard poultry flocks for salmonella outbreak

Seven separate multi-state outbreaks of salmonella this year have been linked to backyard chicken flocks, resulting in 66 hospitalizations, the CDC said. One person who was hospitalized also died, though salmonella was not considered a factor in the death.

A total of 324 cases were reported across 35 states between Jan. 4 and May 11, with 27 percent of those falling ill age 5 or younger. Those infected were likely contaminated by touching chicks, chickens, ducks or ducklings, which can carry salmonella  on their beaks, feathers, feet and also in their bedding, soil and cages, the CDC said. CDC, which is investigating the outbreak with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, expects the outbreak to continue for the next several months.

In interviews, 217 of the 238 ill people said that they had been exposed to the animals before getting sick. Some reported purchasing baby chicks and ducklings from supply stores, co-ops, hatcheries and friends who grew them in backyard pens. Raising chicks — which typically run $3 a bird — has become an increasingly popular hobby in cities. To help these hobby farmers, CDC also has a set of guidelines to follow.

States in the northeast took the biggest hit with 33 people infected in Ohio and 34 in both New York and Michigan. 

While Salmonella typically lasts for up to a week, children under 5 have a heightened risk for developing severe illness. “Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths,” the CDC said.

About 1.2 million Salmonella cases are reported every year, including 450 deaths, CNN reported.