Hundreds more confirmed sick in outbreak traced to backyard flocks

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Emma Hayes

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In the past month 311 patients have been added to the list of people with Salmonella infections related to contact with backyard poultry flocks. One person has died.

The total of confirmed infections now stands at 474, according to an update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sick people live in 46 states, but the outbreak could involve more states and additional patients.

One-third of the confirmed patients are children younger than 5 yers old. 

Click on map to enlarge.

Of patients with information available, 103 have been so sick they had to be admitted to hospitals. Illnesses started on dates ranging from Dec. 15, 2020, to June 4 this year.

“The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” according to the CDC. “This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for Salmonella. In addition, recent illnesses may not yet be reported as it usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to determine if a sick person is part of an outbreak.”

Testing in multiple states has shown the outbreak strains of Salmonella in backyard flocks, their enclosures, their bedding and their droppings.

“Interviews with sick people show that contact with backyard poultry is the likely source of the outbreaks,” the CDC reported. “Backyard poultry can carry Salmonella germs even if they look healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread in areas where the poultry live and roam.”

State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the animals they came into contact with the week before they got sick. Of the 271 people interviewed, 209 of them — 77 percent — reported contact with backyard poultry before getting sick.

Whole genome sequencing was used to identify predicted antibiotic resistance for bacteria from 382 sick people’s samples, one animal sample, and nine environmental samples. Of the 392 samples, 159 of them — 41 percent —  were predicted to be resistant to one or more antibiotics.

Steps to stay healthy around backyard poultry

  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds after touching the flock or flock supplies or anything in their habitats.
  • Keep flocks and flock supplies outside the house to prevent spreading germs into homes.
  • Don’t let children younger than 5 years old touch the birds, including chicks and ducklings, or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle the birds, as this can spread germs to your mouth and make you sick.

 About Salmonella infections
Birds contaminated with Salmonella bacteria do not necessarily look or act sick.

Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are not fully developed or are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has has any contact with live poultry and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria. Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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author

Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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