The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is reporting an increase in Salmonella infections, or salmonellosis, among people who have had contact with live baby poultry. Since March 2, 2016, there have been 20 cases of salmonellosis with live chick or duckling exposure reported throughout the state; these numbers are expected to rise. Six individuals (30 percent) were hospitalized and the reported cases are associated with individuals ranging from younger than 12 months to 70 years of age.
“While raising baby chicks and having fresh eggs can be fun and educational, poultry owners should be aware that chickens and other birds can carry germs that can impact human health,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS chief medical executive.
Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. Sometimes a severe infection occurs and the person needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella can spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
“Live baby poultry can carry Salmonella and still look healthy. Poultry do not get sick like people do from the bacteria,” said Dr. James Averill, state veterinarian, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “This is why it’s so important for people handling baby chicks and poultry to practice good personal biosecurity such as handwashing because the bacteria may be present.”
Local health departments (LHDs) are playing a critical role in this outbreak investigation. Investigators from several LHDs with salmonellosis cases have visited the feed and farm stores to collect environmental samples for testing in jurisdictions where ill residents purchased baby poultry. These environmental samples have been tested at the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories and a number of samples are positive for Salmonella; some of which match the outbreak strain. Testing and a traceback investigation are still in process. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been notified.
People become infected with Salmonella when they handle young poultry or their cages and coops. Germs can be found on the hands, shoes, and clothing of those who handle the birds or work or play in areas where the birds live and roam. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing.
Here are some important actions you and your family can take to protect yourselves from a Salmonella infection:
- Wash hands vigorously with soap and water immediately after touching poultry or anything in their environment, such as cages, coops, or bedding.
- Adults should supervise hand washing for young children after they have held baby poultry or touched anything in the bird’s environment.
- Live poultry should be kept in their own place outside the home.
- The CDC recommends children under the age of five, older adults, or people who are immune compromised should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
If you suspect that you or your child has a Salmonella infection, contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.