The COVID-19 pandemic has been connected with an increase in people keeping backyard chickens, which in turn is believed to be connected to an increase in salmonella outbreaks.
According to a National Public Radio report, hatcheries all over the country have reported increased demand for chicks from people who want to start their own backyard flocks. Chickens provide a source of food with fresh eggs. Raising chickens is also viewed as an educational family activity.
Unfortunately, the increase in backyard flocks has also brought an increase in salmonella infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health officials in 48 states are investigating 15 multi-state outbreaks of salmonella infections linked to contact with poultry in backyard flocks, such as chicks and ducklings.
According to the CDC, as of July 28, 938 people infected with one of the outbreak strains of salmonella have been reported from 48 states; of those, 151 people have been hospitalized. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 94 years, with a median age of 32. Fifty-six percent are female.
One death has been reported in Oklahoma.
According to the available data, 28% of all people are children younger than 5 years of age.
Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence shows that contact with backyard poultry (such as chicks and ducklings) is the likely source of these outbreaks.
People reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including agricultural stores, websites and hatcheries.
According to the CDC, you can get sick with a salmonella infection from touching backyard poultry or their environment. Backyard poultry can carry salmonella bacteria even if they look healthy and clean and show no signs of illness, the CDC advises.
The CDC provided the following tips for those who raise chickens:
• Wash your hands. Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching backyard poultry, their eggs or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should supervise handwashing by young children. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
• Be safe around poultry. Don’t kiss backyard poultry or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth. Don’t let backyard poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored. Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house. Don’t eat or drink where poultry live or roam. Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for poultry, such as cages and containers for feed or water.
• Supervise kids around poultry. Always supervise children around poultry and while they wash their hands. Children younger than 5 years of age shouldn’t handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other poultry. Young children are more likely to get sick from germs like salmonella.
• Handle eggs safely. Collect eggs often. Eggs that sit in the nest can become dirty or break. Throw away cracked eggs. Germs on the shell can more easily enter the egg though a cracked shell. Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned carefully with fine sandpaper, a brush or a cloth. Don’t wash warm, fresh eggs because colder water can pull germs into the egg. Refrigerate eggs after collection to maintain freshness and slow germ growth. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter. Raw and undercooked eggs may contain salmonella bacteria that can make you sick.