By: Candess Zona-Mendola
When it comes to raising chickens, bacteria are always a concern. Bacteria can sicken entire flocks, as well as the people who are tenderly caring for them. The problem with bacteria is that they are everywhere – from the soil in the ground to the intestines of birds. And no matter what we do, there is always a possibility for illness.
But a good chicken keeper knows that Salmonella is always a concern when it comes to chickens.
I am sad to report, there is another outbreak of Salmonella in 36 states linked to backyard poultry. It is primed to only grow bigger. Outbreaks of this kind are not new. But with the help of some helpful humans who know how to properly care for poultry, we can help reduce outbreaks like these.
Salmonella and Poultry is Not New
The current outbreak of Salmonella linked to backyard poultry is the 71st in this century. Yes! That means there have been 71 outbreaks of Salmonella illnesses in humans linked to people keeping live birds in domestic settings.
In 2016, there were 8 (yes 8) outbreaks of Salmonella species linked to live poultry in the United States. The CDC discovered all of them were due to humans handling live poultry.
Almost every state in the United States had illnesses, and over 900 confirmed cases were part of the outbreak. Three people died. For those who may not know the multiplier, for every one illness of Salmonella there are usually many more not reported. This means the illnesses are more in the thousands range.
This is a problem that is not going away, but it is easily prevented.
How You Can Help
Blogs like this one are imperative to getting the word out about how to properly take care of poultry without getting the birds or yourself sick. The problem with most of these outbreaks is that newbies just do not know what to do – and parents sometimes think that exposing their children to birds will build their immune systems.
But prevention is so simple. The CDC recently offered the following tips for all of us to help prevent the spread of illness with live poultry:
- Keep the birds outside. Chickens live in coops, not in your home. Cross-contamination can happen on any surface.
- Wash your hands and a lot! Salmonella bacteria live in chickens’ digestive tract. It does not make them sick but can make us really sick. So, when a chicken does what a chicken does after it eats, let’s just say it can get everywhere – from their feet to feathers to eggs. Handwashing is the best defense against any type of illness.
- Watch little kids. If you are a parent like me, you know kids always put their hands in their mouths. It only takes a second for a little one to pet a chicken and lick their fingers. And little ones are the most susceptible to severe illness.
- Have “outside” shoes and “inside” shoes. This one is a given. You shouldn’t wear the shoes that you were tromping around in the chicken spaces into your home.