August 1, 2012 — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning that a recent outbreak of Salmonella infection has been traced to a mail-order poultry hatchery in southwest Missouri. The CDC has confirmed that 76 people in 22 states have contracted the same strain of salmonella after handling chicks, ducklings, and other baby birds from Estes Hatchery in Springfield, Missouri. The majority of the illnesses occurred in children, and 17 people have been hospitalized due to the outbreak.
The CDC is advising businesses to inform people who purchase baby poultry that there is a risk of salmonella poisoning after touching baby chicks, ducklings, other baby poultry, or touching anything in the area where they are kept.
Several months ago, the CDC issued a warning about the risk of salmonella poisoning after handing baby poultry. In May 2012, one hatchery was implicated in 316 cases of Salmonella montevideo poisoning across 43 states. That same month, an Ohio hatchery was implicated in 93 cases of salmonella poisoning in 23 states.
There are only a few poultry hatcheries in the United States, and several have been implicated in salmonella outbreaks. Once a hatchery is contaminated, it is difficult or impossible to sterilize the facility and prevent further salmonella contamination.
Salmonella is a bacteria that can infect a hen, who lays an egg that contains the bacteria. The egg does not develop into a chick, but the bacteria thrives inside the egg material. If the egg is broken, the salmonella bacteria can easily spread to other eggs, animals, surfaces, human handlers, equipment, etc.
Experts recommend that children under 5 years old should not handle live baby poultry. Young children often touch their faces and it may be difficult for parents to make sure they wash their hands properly after touching the animals. Although healthy adults usually recover from salmonella poisoning, young children can suffer a severe bacterial infection that causes life-threatening diarrhea and vomiting. Most children who contract the bacteria must be hospitalized.
The Salmonella bacteria causes salmonellosis, a severe gastrointestinal illness. The disease begins within 8-72 hours after infection. It begins with malaise, headache, stomach ache, and nausea. These symptoms quickly intensify to include diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, severe abdominal cramps, and more. The illness may persist for up to a week, and normal bowel function may not return for up to three months.
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