Public health officials are investigating outbreaks of salmonella linked to backyard poultry and have identified more than 200 cases so far this year, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Four of those cases are in Indiana. The outbreaks currently span 38 states. Twenty seven people have been hospitalized, and one person in Tennessee has died.
The true number of sick people is “likely much higher than the reported number, as many people recover without medical care and are not tested for salmonella,” according to a statement from the CDC accompanying the report.
Poultry and their eggs can carry salmonella, even if they look healthy and clean. The germs can spread in areas where the poultry live and roam, and people get sick when they touch those germs and then touch their mouth or food.
The CDC advises handwashing for 20 seconds after contact with poultry and their living area, refraining from wearing shoes worn in chicken coops inside the home, and supervising children, who are more likely to get sick from germs like salmonella.
Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, vomiting and stomach cramps, starting six hours to six days after exposure.
Most people recover without treatment after four to seven days.
People younger than 5, older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness. The CDC advises people call their health care provider right away if symptoms are severe.
“These outbreaks occur annually and coincide with the increase in baby poultry purchases, beginning in the spring,” the CDC said in a statement. “These salmonella outbreaks are not related to recent cases of H5N1 bird flu viruses detected in U.S. wild birds and poultry. However, backyard poultry owners should be aware that the steps needed to stay healthy around their flocks are similar for both diseases.”
In 2021, more than a thousand people got sick from contact with backyard poultry.
The CDC website has advice on how backyard flock owners and stores selling poultry can help reduce salmonella contamination.