JUN 06, 2021 6:19 AM PDT

Salmonella Outbreaks in North America & the UK

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning chicken consumers and people that keep live poultry at home about Salmonella outbreaks. The CDC has been monitoring Salmonellosis cases that have occurred in individuals that keep chickens at home; as of late May, there had been 163 documented cases and 34 hospitalizations in many states. There's also been a recent outbreak of Salmonella contamination in raw chicken supplies. Hundreds of cases have been reported in Europe and Canada, and as of June 2 in the United States, there had been 17 confirmed cases and eight hospitalizations linked to raw chicken products. Right now, there are not any product recalls.

Image credit: Public Domain / George Hodan

The CDC noted that many more cases have probably occurred, but Salmonella infections that cause Salmonellosis are often mild and resolve on their own; they don't draw the attention of public health officials. Typical symptoms include stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea; the illness tends to last about a week. However, children and adults over age 65 or who have compromised immune systems are at risk for more serious cases.

Salmonellosis is a preventable illness. Backyard poultry might carry Salmonella bacteria even when they look healthy. The birds can spread it easily, so people interacting with these animals are reminded to thoroughly wash their hands after touching animals in the flock or flock supplies, which should be kept outside. Children under the age of five should not handle birds, even chicks, or anything the birds come into contact with. Kissing or snuggling the birds also carries a serious risk of spreading Salmonella.

Freezing cold temperatures do not kill Salmonella, so raw poultry and anything that contains raw poultry has to be thoroughly cooked to ensure it's free of the pathogen.

To work safely with raw poultry, it should be kept away from other foods, especially those that aren't cooked. It should be stored under 4 degrees Celsius and defrosted in the refrigerator. Poultry shouldn't be washed because when the water splashes it can spread dangerous microbes. Any surfaces or utensils that come into contact with raw chicken should be cleaned with soap and water, as should hands.

Sources: CDC, AAAS/Eurekalert! via BfR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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