May 28, 2017

MDH Offers Steps to Keep Backyard Poultry Keepers Safe

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is offering simple steps to keep backyard poultry-keepers safe. There have been large Salmonella outbreaks in the past linked to backyard poultry flocks. In 2014, hundreds were sickened in a Salmonella outbreak linked to the birds, and in 2016, there were eight Salmonella outbreaks caused by contact with live poultry.

Baby chicks

Many people keep backyard birds for fresh eggs and meat. But there are risks associated with raising poultry; the birds can be carriers of Salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria. Children under the age of 5, people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, and pregnant women are most likely to become seriously ill with a Salmonella infection. So MDH is offering some steps to protect yourself and your family.

First, be aware that these birds pose a risk. In that 2016 outbreak, 896 people were sickened with Salmonella infection linked to live poultry in small flocks. Thirty-two of those sickened live in Minnesota. In the past five years, 376 Minnesotans got sick with Salmonella or Campylobacter infections linked to live poultry.

Second, keep poultry in their own space outdoors. Live chicks, ducklings, chickens, and ducks should never be kept in the house or in areas where food or drinks are prepared, served, or stored. Dedicate work clothing and boots for use in poultry areas only, and don’t wear them anywhere other than in the poultry area. Keep that clothing outside.

Always wash your hands with soap and water after you come into contact with live poultry or their environment. Wash your hands after changing bedding, collecting eggs, and handling the birds. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t readily available, but then use soap and water as soon as possible.

Watch the kids around live poultry. It’s fun to cuddle these little birds when they are babies, but that’s an easy way to share germs. Make sure that kids don’t put their hands or fingers near their mouths after handling the birds, and supervise handwashing. And keep the poultry in a secure area with intact fences, barriers, or buildings. If any animals show signs of illness, separate them from the healthy animals and contact your veterinarian.

The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include fever, nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you have backyard poultry and anyone in the family develops these symptoms, they should see a doctor. While most people recover on their own after this type of illness, there can be long term consequences of a Salmonella infection, including reactive arthritis and high blood pressure.

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