June 1, 2012 — A new outbreak of chick salmonella poisoning that has sickened 93 people across 23 states has been traced back to mail-order chicks from one hatchery in Ohio. The majority of the victims are located in the Eastern U.S. and less than 10 years old. In all, 18 people have been hospitalized, and one death possibly linked to the outbreak is currently under investigation.
Most of the salmonella poisonings have been traced back to Mount Healthy Hatchery in Ohio. This is the second major salmonella linked to the hatchery. During last year’s egg hatching season, between February and October, at least 96 cases of salmonella poisoning were traced to the Mount Healthy hatchery. In that outbreak, there were two strains of salmonella identified. In the 2012 outbreak, three stains of salmonella have been identified.
Another hatchery has also been implicated in chick salmonella poisonings. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported 316 cases of chick salmonella poisoning, all tied to one hatchery in the Western U.S. The illnesses have been ongoing for the last eight years, though the numbers have decreased since the hatchery began aggressive sanitation efforts in 2006. Even so, salmonella illnesses continue to be traced back to this hatchery.
The CDC warns that parents should not allow children under 5 years old to handle live baby chicks, ducklings, goslings, or other live poultry. Salmonella poisoning can be deadly for high-risk people, especially children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. People who do handle live poultry should wash their hands thoroughly afterward and take care not to touch their face or body before washing their hands.
Many people are completely unaware of the risk of salmonella poisoning from touching baby chicks and birds. Hatcheries are actually a common source of salmonella poisoning, and once the hatchery has been contaminated, it is almost impossible to completely eradicate the bacteria. Female birds infected with salmonella lay eggs that contain the salmonella bacteria. When the eggs are incubated in a warm, dark environment, the bacteria proliferates dramatically. If the egg is broken, the sticky egg fluid can easily spread salmonella to other birds, eggs, humans, equipment, and even the air.
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