WASHINGTON — Various months-long salmonella outbreaks that have infected at least 219 people across 38 states can be traced to contact with backyard poultry, the Centers for Disease Control said this week.
The current outbreak began in mid-February, with the bulk of illnesses occurring between mid-April and mid-May, according to data from the CDC. The agency said that at least 27 people have been hospitalized from contracting the bacteria and at least one person from Tennessee has died.
These outbreaks linked to backyard poultry contact are unrelated to the salmonella outbreak linked to Jif peanut butter and the ensuing recall. It's also not related to recent cases of H5N1 bird flu viruses detected in U.S. wild birds and poultry.
The majority of cases linked to backyard poultry appear to be centralized in the upper Midwest, with Minnesota reporting the most cases at 15 and Wisconsin having the second-most with 13 cases. The CDC says that most of those hospitalized were young children.
The more than 200 people who contracted salmonella were between the ages of less than 1 and 89, according to CDC data. Of the patients interviewed by the CDC, 70% reported contact with backyard poultry, which includes birds likes chicken and ducks. Of 56 patients with information available, 16 reported eating eggs from backyard poultry and two reported eating the animals' meat.
CDC testing also revealed that 33% of samples of the bacteria taken from all reported cases have shown resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics including ampicillin, kanamycin, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.
Most people infected with salmonella experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, according to the CDC. Symptoms usually form within six hours of swallowing the bacteria and most people recover in 4-7 days without treatment.
Children under age 5, adults 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems may experience more severe illness that may lead to hospitalization.
It is widely know that backyard poultry and poultry products carry higher risks of salmonella contaminations. An outbreak last year infected more than 1,100 people and killed at least two people.
The CDC recommends several ways to avoid the spread and contamination of salmonella from backyard poultry. People should avoid kissing or snuggling the animals, and you should wash your hands with warm soapy water if you do make contact with the birds or their eggs.
People who collect eggs should inspect the eggs regularly to make sure they are not cracked. The CDC also recommends not to wash eggs, as water may cause the bacteria to penetrate the shell. Eggs should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before consumption.