Health Concerns

Uh-oh: Cuddly Chickens Responsible for Salmonella Infections

Photo: iStockphoto

The U.S. Center for Disease Control is reporting that two strains of salmonella, apparently contracted from handling baby chicks and ducklings, have infected at least 49 people in sixteen states since February 25. Based on available data, the age range of people who became sick spans from six months to 86 years; 39 percent of that group represent children age 5 or under. Symptoms resulting from infection of the those two strains, Salmonella Altona and Salmonella Johannesburg, include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps; there have been twelve known hospitalizations specifically related to these chicks and ducklings in the last four months.

While noting that last year’s poultry-related salmonella outbreak prompted the recall of a staggering 500 million eggs, Reuters reported earlier this month that Ohio Department of Health officials named the Cincinnati-based Mt. Healthy Hatchery in connection to the outbreak. The CDC advises that preventing infection is as simple as abstinence from “holding, cuddling, or kissing” the baby birds, plus some old-fashioned, thorough hand washing. With soap.

In other unfortunate chicken news, Maryn McKenna reports for Wired on a study published in the CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that suggests drug-resistant E. coli samples taken from chicken meat in the Netherlands match the same genetic footprint of E. coli samples taken from people in the same area — at least enough to make the case that rampant use of antibiotics, perhaps mostly in industrial settings, has resulted in a recent increase of the drug-resistant bacterium. Normally, there’d be a joke about the “other white meat” here or something, but this chicken stuff is getting way too depressing.

Investigation Update: Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Altona and Salmonella Johannesburg Infections Linked to Chicks and Ducklings [U.S. Centers for Disease Control]
Is Drug Resistance in Humans Coming From Chickens? [Wired]

Uh-oh: Cuddly Chickens Responsible for Salmonella Infections