A multi-stage salmonella outbreak linked to backyard chickens shows no signs of declining, according to a statement released Monday by the Federal Centers for Disease Control
"People can get salmonella infections if they touch living poultry or their environment," the report states. "These birds can carry salmonella bacteria, but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of disease."
So far, six different strains of Salmonella bacteria have been identified in this outbreak. Each year, the CDC estimates that salmonella in the United States causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths. About one million of these diseases come from Salmonella-contaminated foods. Most people who are infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The disease usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment. But some people suffer from so much diarrhea that they have to go to the hospital.
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According to the CDC, epidemiological and laboratory findings link current salmonella outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, from several hatcheries. More than 70 percent of respondents said they had contact with chicks or ducklings the week before the disease began. They told the interviewers that they had received the chicks and ducklings from feed shops, web sites, hatcheries and relatives.
This spring, Dr. Ing. Dora Mills, former director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and vice president of the University of New England in Biddeford, spoke about the dangers that chickens can pose to humans.
"Many people do not know that these cute, small, fuzzy animals carry microbes that carry harmful bacteria for us," she said in March. "Although the animal is healthy, they are often carriers and do not get sick."
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The CDC gave some tips on how to avoid diseases when taking care of a backyard herd.
– Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching live poultry or anything around them.
– Have children younger than 5 years old treat or handle live poultry without adult supervision.
– Put a pair of shoes to put aside birds and keep the shoes outside your home.
"It is important to remember that all poultry have these microbes and carry these germs as part of the normal flora in their systems," Mills said. "So always remember to wash your hands after hugging a chicken." Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest news from Maine.