A growing salmonella outbreak has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to warn backyard poultry owners about their chickens.
A CDC investigation reported 163 people had been sickened across 43 states, according to NBC News. Interviews with people affected showed that contact with backyard poultry likely was the source of the outbreaks.
North Carolina (13) and Iowa (11) were the states with the most people suffering from salmonella. California, Georgia, and Virginia each reported nine.
Although no persons had died, the CDC said a third of those sickened were children under five years of age. Children were more likely to get sick from salmonella, the agency said, and advised preventing kids under five from touching the birds.
With few people being tested for salmonella, the agency warned there likely were many more cases unreported.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. In most people, it resolves on its own in a week or less.
"Backyard poultry, like chicken and ducks, can carry Salmonella germs even if they look healthy and clean," the CDC said Thursday. "These germs can easily spread to anything in the areas where they live and roam."
The CDC said people younger than five or older than 65 were more at risk of experiencing severe illness and hospitalization.
The agency recommended having hand sanitizer near coops and frequently washing hands after touching poultry.
"Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don't eat or drink around them," the CDC wrote. "This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick.
"Keep your backyard flock and supplies you use to care for them (like feed containers and shoes you wear in the coop) outside of the house. You should also clean the supplies outside the house."
The CDC warned backyard poultry owners to handle eggs safely, and suggested collecting them often because they can become dirty or break while sitting in the nest.
"Throw away cracked eggs. Germs on the shell can more easily enter the egg though a cracked shell," the CDC said. "Rub off dirt on eggs with fine sandpaper, a brush, or a cloth. Don’t wash them because colder water can pull germs into the egg.
"Refrigerate eggs to keep them fresh and slow the growth of germs. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm, and cook egg dishes to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill all germs."
The latest news follows a 2020 in which there were 17 multistate salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard flock contact in all 50 states, the CDC said.
"The number of illnesses reported [last year] was higher than the number reported during any of the past years’ outbreaks linked to backyard flocks," the CDC wrote.
Every year since 2017 has reported salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard poultry flocks.
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