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Backyard poultry linked to Whatcom Salmonella cases

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — The Whatcom County Health Department announced today, Thursday, November 10th, that 2 Whatcom County residents have been sickened by Salmonella from backyard poultry and a third Whatcom County case is suspected. 1 of the individuals was hospitalized but has since been released. 37 Salmonella cases in Washington State have been connected to a nationwide backyard poultry-linked outbreak. Federal investigation into the nationwide outbreak has identified over a thousand cases across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“Birds and reptiles commonly carry salmonella and other pathogens. Illness outbreaks occur each year among people who care for birds and reptiles. Illness risk is present in both livestock and pets,” said Tom Kunesh, Whatcom County Health Department Food and Living Environment Supervisor. 

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause serious illness, hospitalization and sometimes death. Children under 5, adults over 65 and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to get sick from Salmonella. These groups should avoid handling live poultry.

People can get sick from Salmonella by touching backyard poultry or contaminated objects/surfaces within backyard poultry areas and then touching their mouth or food with unwashed hands.

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Backyard poultry, domesticated backyard birds like chickens and ducks, can carry Salmonella even if they look healthy and clean. Salmonella often spreads to anything within the backyard poultry living and roaming areas. Although Salmonella infections from backyard poultry are often associated with chicks in Spring, they can actually occur in any season and anyone handling backyard poultry should always follow safe handling precautions.

To help prevent the spread of Salmonella, backyard poultry owners are advised to do the following.

  • Remove “barn shoes” and contaminated clothing outside or in a mud room
  • Wash hands with soap and water immediately after touching backyard poultry, their eggs or anything within their living and roaming areas
  • Always supervise children around backyard poultry – Children under 5 should not touch backyard poultry
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry
  • Keep backyard poultry and all supplies used to care for them outside of the house – Clean supplies outside the house

People usually become sick from Salmonella 6 hours to 6 days after infection. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Most people infected with Salmonella recover without treatment. However, some may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization.

For more details, visit the CDC’s  Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Backyard Poultry webpage.

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