Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and Department of Livestock (DOL) officials warn that Salmonella cases linked to live poultry are increasing.
Salmonella infections aren’t only caused by eating contaminated food – they can also come from contact with animals and animal environments, including backyard poultry.
Raising backyard poultry has become an increasingly popular activity in Montana. In a year where a lot of Montanans spent more time at home than normal, many have turned to at-home activities such as raising backyard chicks and ducks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the COVID-19 pandemic boosted demand for backyard poultry flocks across the country.
While there are many benefits to raising poultry, there are also associated health risks. In 2020, 24 Montanans were linked to a multi-state outbreak of 1,722 Salmonella cases caused by contact with live poultry or their environment. This is the largest multi-state backyard poultry outbreak in over 10 years, and it caused at least 333 hospitalizations across the country. This spring, there are already eight confirmed Salmonella cases in Montana caused by contact with backyard poultry, including four hospitalizations.
Poultry can carry and shed bacteria such as Salmonella without showing any signs of disease. Salmonella can cause illness in humans and can be spread while handling live poultry or objects in their environment.
Hinnenkamp said children under five and people with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic disease, are at the highest risk for infection and should avoid handling live poultry.
Public health and livestock officials encourage safe handling of live poultry to prevent potential human illness using these simple prevention methods:
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