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How cute chicks and ducklings led to a 41-state salmonella outbreak

What is salmonella and how do you keep from getting it?

Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC. The bacteria is typically transmitted through contaminated food, but some simple preventative measures can keep you from getting sick.
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Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC. The bacteria is typically transmitted through contaminated food, but some simple preventative measures can keep you from getting sick.

A salmonella outbreak that has swept into 41 states appears to have its roots in backyard poultry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yes, chickens, ducks and their offspring.

As for the raw numbers, 279 people are counted as part of this outbreak, with 40 hospitalized. That’s 14.3 percent, well above the 1.9 percent that the CDC says is the annual average hospitalization rate for salmonella. Salmonella brings diarrhea, fever and stomachaches for about four to seven days, sometimes with enough bloody diarrhea to require hospitalization.

The only nine states without cases are Florida, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Vermont, North Dakota, Delaware, Alaska and Hawaii. Ohio (32), Texas and Tennessee (26 each) have the most cases by state.

Geographic and time patterns of illnesses and laboratory evidence, the CDC says, “indicate that contact with backyard poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, from multiple hatcheries is the likely source of these outbreaks.”

Of 153 people interviewed, 118 said they’d handled chicks or ducklings from many different places.

The CDC offers these pieces of advice for dealing with the feathered animals:

Always wash your hands with soap and water right after touching backyard poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if you can’t get to soap and water. Adults should oversee young children, who often don’t wash hands long enough or well enough.

Use a different pair of shoes when dealing with the poultry and keep those shoes out of the house.

Even if you think of your poultry as family and friends, keep them as outside family and friends. And keep them away from places you eat, cook or keep food.

Do not kiss the baby. Not the baby chicks, not the baby ducklings. Don’t “snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.”

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Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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