By Michelle Miller – A new CDC Salmonella outbreak report warns that illness from Salmonella is on the rise in 2017. Hundreds of people, over a third being children under the age of five, have become ill within one week of contact with live birds, suggesting that backyard poultry is a major source of Salmonella infection. These statistics can be frightening but they are meant as warnings. Keeping backyard poultry comes with a list of diseases that your human family could be exposed to from Salmonella to Avian Influenza. However, understanding the best way to house/handle birds can keep everyone healthy and ensures that the benefits of backyard birds far outweigh the risks! Here is what you need to know about the CDC Salmonella outbreak and what it means for you.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause severe illness in humans when ingested. Common sources of salmonella infection include foods such as undercooked meat and raw milk. Salmonella can infect the intestinal tract of birds without causing disease and a bird can carry the bacteria for a lifetime.
What are the Signs of Salmonella Infection?
Know the signs of illness that are associated with Salmonella infection in humans. Symptoms can start within 12 hours of exposure and include the following.
- Abdominal Cramping
Most people recover within a week without treatment but children and elderly persons may experience more serious illness. The CDC Salmonella outbreak information page advises anyone with severe symptoms to seek medical care.
How is Salmonella Spread from Birds to Humans?
Birds can carry Salmonella without showing any signs of illness so you may not know if your birds are infected. This means anything that your birds come into contact with could be contaminated. Touching birds, cages, bedding, eggs, or any other items in the area leads to contamination of your hands or clothing. Putting your hands in or near your mouth then transfers the Salmonella to you. It’s important to remember that even chicks and ducklings can carry Salmonella.
Can Eggs Carry Salmonella?
Yes, if your birds are infected, then the eggs from your birds can be contaminated. This can happen during egg laying or can occur through contact with dirty litter. Eggs from infected birds could have been one of several sources causing the CDC Salmonella outbreak. Here are a few basics for proper handling and treatment of eggs to reduce the risk of contamination.
- Wash your hands, not the eggs. Washing eggs has been shown to increase chances of bacteria penetrating the eggshell.
- Keep nesting boxes clean. Clean litter means clean eggs.
- Collect eggs as often as possible.
- Store eggs in a refrigerator immediately after collection.
- Cook your eggs thoroughly before eating.
What Can You do to Prevent Getting Infected?
It is difficult to determine the exact cause of the CDC Salmonella outbreak but these types of Salmonella infection are usually attributed to poor poultry handling practices. Many of the same day-to-day behaviors that help ensure your birds keep Salmonella to themselves apply to other poultry germs as well, so making these practices a permanent part of your daily routine can go a long way to giving you peace of mind about the safety of keeping birds.
- WASH YOUR HANDS after any contact with the birds or the area where they are kept.
- Supervise contact time between younger children and birds. Make sure that children wash their hands properly afterward.
- Do not put your mouth or face near your birds (no kissing).
- Keep birds in their own area. Having a house-chicken might make for great Instagram photos but live birds in or near places where food is prepared is never a good idea.
- Have a designated pair of coop-boots that stay outside. Bringing dirty shoes into your home is often overlooked as a source of contamination.
- Wash feed and water containers outside.
Keeping poultry can be an extremely rewarding and entertaining activity. However, as the CDC Salmonella outbreak highlights, there are clear health consequences when precautions are not taken to protect yourself from potential disease transmission. Although Salmonella infection is something every bird owner should consider, it’s relatively easy to prevent. Taking the extra time to understand these risks and to follow safe poultry-rearing practices as outlined here will only add to the positive experience of having your own backyard flock!
Are you concerned about the CDC Salmonella outbreak? Do you take precautions to prevent this illness? Join in the conversation below.