ThedaCare Health Matters

Backyard chickens can carry Salmonella

Backyard chicken farming is becoming more popular, and some municipalities have approved keeping chickens within the city limits. I admit I have chickens of my own that I keep for fun and for fresh eggs. The Centers for Disease Control has reported there have been outbreaks of salmonella infections associated with exposure to chickens and their eggs this past year, but there are ways to reduce the chance of an infection.

First, there are different strains of salmonella. Typhoid fever is due to a specific strain that tends to cause more severe illness. The salmonella strains associated with poultry is not the typhoid strain.

Salmonella is a bacterium that lives on chickens that appear otherwise healthy. If a person gets salmonella into their mouth and gastrointestinal tract, it can cause illness. The symptoms are fever, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and vomiting. The illness generally occurs several hours to several days after exposure. Healthy people generally get over the illness on their own; however, antibiotics are needed in cases that are more severe, persistent or in children or the elderly.

The latest report form the CDC indicates there have been more than 1,000 cases this year with 249 hospitalizations and one death in the United States There have been 29 cases reported in Wisconsin. Salmonella is diagnosed by culturing the bacterium from a stool or blood sample. Anyone can acquire infection if they are exposed, but infants, elderly and people with lowered immunity tend to be more susceptible.

The main way to avoid infection is to be careful to wash hands after touching chickens, eggs, coops and any area that the chickens, eggs or droppings might be. If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer can be used.

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