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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

National disease outbreak from handling live chickens spreads to N.H.

CONCORD – At least 11 people in the state have become sick after being contaminated by chickens they were raising, all linked to problems at a hatchery in Ohio.

The New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services is using the case to alert people to the risks of Salmonella Enteritidis infection associated with exposure to chicks and other live poultry. As of August 6, at least 11 people in the state have been infected with Salmonella shortly after exposure to chicks or chickens, most in late April and early May, state officials said in a press release ...

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CONCORD – At least 11 people in the state have become sick after being contaminated by chickens they were raising, all linked to problems at a hatchery in Ohio.

The New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services is using the case to alert people to the risks of Salmonella Enteritidis infection associated with exposure to chicks and other live poultry. As of August 6, at least 11 people in the state have been infected with Salmonella shortly after exposure to chicks or chickens, most in late April and early May, state officials said in a press release

Patients range in age from a few months old to 69, and two were hospitalized. All have fully recovered.

“The majority of cases were raising chicks inside their home or backyard for meat or eggs,” the division said a press release.

Small poultry operations have become much more popular in New Hampshire in recent years as part of the “backyard chicken” boom.

The U.S. Census of Agriculture found 771 locations in New Hampshire with fewer than 50 egg-laying chickens in 2007, but by the next census in 2012 that number had soared to 1,094. Similarly, small operations raising “broilers and other meat-type chickens” rose from 120 in 2007 to 194 in 2012.

All cases were linked to the purchase of baby chicks from different local farm supply stores that are all supplied by Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio, which has been implicated in an ongoing multi-state outbreak of Salmonella, as well as outbreaks in 2011 and 2012.

“While this cluster of cases linked to a problem at a particular hatchery is concerning, unfortunately Salmonella is always a risk with poultry,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health. “That is why we want to emphasize that people follow appropriate and consistent hygiene recommendations every time they come in contact with live poultry, whether or not it is chicks or adults, chickens or other types of poultry.”

Poultry frequently carry bacteria which can cause illness in humans. Chickens and other poultry infected with Salmonella usually do not appear sick.

Typical human symptoms of Salmonella infection are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These symptoms generally develop within one to three days of exposure and may last for up to a week.

While anyone can become ill from exposure to these germs, the risk of infection is especially high for children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems. These groups of people are also at risk for more severe infections.

Salmonella lives in the intestines of infected chickens and can be shed in the droppings. Baby chicks may be especially prone to shed these germs and cause human illness due to the stress of shipping and adapting to many new locations before they reach a permanent home. Once shed, bacteria can spread across the chicken’s body as the bird cleans itself and as the chicken walks around.

“It is especially important to carefully wash your hands with soap and water after handling poultry or anything that has come into contact with them,” said the department.

“People accidentally ingest Salmonella in many ways, including eating after handling chickens or by touching their hand to their mouth while working with the birds without washing their hands thoroughly first. If handled properly, poultry should not pose a Salmonella risk to people.

For more information on this national outbreak, visit www.cdc.gov/salmonella/live-poultry-05-14/advice-consumers.html.