State warns backyard chicken farmers of salmonella risk

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OLYMPIA – For many, raising chickens has become a popular pastime, but now experts are warning of a Salmonella risk.

Springtime is normally when people become infected with salmonella. That’s because they buy chicks, ducklings and other live poultry, and then handle them without washing their hands afterwards. The cute little creatures can harbor bacteria like Salmonella.

“Many people enjoy raising chickens but might not know that all poultry, even birds that appear clean and healthy, may carry bacteria called Salmonella,” Kathy Lofy, interim state health officer for the Department of Health said. “While it’s fun for families to get baby birds, the bacteria they shed can make people sick. This is especially true for young children, who account for the largest proportion of live poultry-related Salmonella cases.”

Last year, 19 people in Washington were part of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella illness associated with handling live poultry. Thirteen of the cases were children under the age of 10. Nationally, more than 500 illnesses from at least 39 states were linked to Salmonella outbreaks related to live poultry, including those kept in backyard flocks.

Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually last several days. Severe cases may require hospitalization and can result in death.