FERNDALE, Wash. — Popular backyard poultry (chicks, chickens, ducks, ducklings, geese and turkeys) are being blamed for 20 cases of Salmonella illness so far this year in Washington with 8 cases resulting in hospitalization according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). This is only 3 short of the record high of 23 cases reported the state during a nationwide outbreak in 2017.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns, “People enjoy raising baby chicks and having fresh eggs from their established flocks. Though keeping chickens can be fun and educational, poultry owners should be aware that chickens and other poultry used for meat and eggs can carry germs that make people sick.”
“Salmonella can cause serious illness, and can spread from animals to people and from people to people,” said Hanna Oltean who investigates zoonotic disease (diseases carried by animals) for the DOH. “You can get the infection from a variety of sources, including eating or drinking contaminated food or water or touching infected animals and not washing your hands.”
While anyone can get a Salmonella infection, children are especially at risk of illness because they are less likely to wash their hands and have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults.
DOH officials advise anyone who owns backyard poultry should keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Always wash hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Even healthy-looking chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys can carry Salmonella bacteria.
- Don’t snuggle or kiss live poultry or allow them in family living spaces
- Don’t eat or drink where poultry live or roam
- Adults should supervise young children handling live poultry
DOH officials advise calling your health care provider if you or your child has a high fever, severe diarrhea, or other symptoms that concern you.