Chicks and ducklings linked to multistate Salmonella outbreak

May 31, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Federal officials and state public health partners are investigating a multistate Salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 25 people and is linked to contact with live chicks and ducklings sold by a national farm store chain.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a May 27 statement that the Salmonella enterica serotype Altona infections matching the outbreak strain have been reported from 11 states: Ohio (7), North Carolina (4), Kentucky (3), Maryland, (2), Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee (2), Indiana (1), Minnesota (1), New York (1), Vermont (1), and Virginia (1).

Among cases with illness-onset dates, the first illness was reported Feb 25, with the latest reported Apr 25. Patients' ages range from less than 1 year to 84, with a median age of 8 years. Of 21 patients with information available, 8 (38%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

The CDC said the US Department of Agriculture's National Poultry Improvement Plan is collaborating in the investigation of the outbreak. Investigators are using PulseNet, a national pathogen subtyping network, to establish whether more illnesses are linked to the outbreak.

Interviews with sick patients found that 16 of 21 had contact with live poultry the week before they became ill. All of the 16 reported contact with chicks, ducklings, or both, and 14 had bought chicks or ducklings from outlets of the same nationwide agricultural feed store. People sickened in the outbreak had purchased the live birds for backyard flocks to produce eggs or as pets.

Lab tests on three environmental samples collected from a sick patient's Ohio household yielded the outbreak strain, the CDC said. Microbiological testing also found the outbreak strain in three samples collected from chick and duckling displays at two of the feed chain's North Carolina stores.

Trace-back investigations revealed that a single mail-order hatchery is the source of the chicks and ducklings linked to the outbreak.

The CDC advised consumers to wash their hands with soap and water after touching live poultry and to supervise hand washing for young children who have handled them. It also advised against letting children younger than 5 or those with weak immune systems handle chicks, ducklings or other live poultry.

It advised hatcheries, retailers, and those who display the birds to provide health information to purchasers and prospective customers, especially about the risk of acquiring Salmonella infection from contact with live poultry.

Over the past several years the CDC has investigated several Salmonella outbreaks linked to chicks and ducklings bought from hatcheries and feed stores.

In 2007 a nationwide outbreaks involving two Salmonella Montevideo pulse-field gel electrophoresis patterns were linked to 129 infections, according to a report in the Jan 23, 2009, issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The outbreaks had different profiles; one primarily affected child who had contact with chicks during the Easter season, and the other mainly involved adults who were exposed to older birds during meat- and egg-production activities.

See also:

May 27 CDC outbreak notice

Jan 23, 2009, MMWR report

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