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Keeping Backyard Flock Owners Safe after Recent Salmonella Outbreaks

As more people are choosing to keep live poultry as pets, educating the public on appropriate health and safety guidelines has become a priority. In response, the CDC is offering recommendations to backyard flock owners.

Updated on 10/12/2016 at 1:10 PM EST**

Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) began an investigation into eight separate multi-state outbreaks of human Salmonella. Epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory findings linked the outbreaks to contact with live poultry such as chicks and ducklings sourced from multiple hatcheries. Interviews, pertaining to contact with live poultry in the weeks before becoming ill confirmed contact with live poultry in 434 of the 493 cases. People who had been infected reported “purchasing live baby poultry from several suppliers, including feed supply stores, internet sites, hatcheries and friends in multiple states.”

Between January 24, 2016 and June 25, 2016, a total of 611 people were reportedly infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella across 45 states. Thirty-two percent of the infections were in children 5 years of age or younger.

As more people are choosing to keep live poultry as pets, educating the public on appropriate health and safety guidelines has become a priority. In response, the CDC offers recommendations to backyard flock owners, who are at greater risk of being infected with and spreading Salmonella.

Recommendations include thorough handwashing immediately after coming into contact with live poultry and a warning to flock owners not to allow children younger than 5 years of age, adults older than 65, and those individuals with weakened immune systems to handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry. Strict cleaning, that includes changing the bedding beneath roosts weekly and cleaning all equipment and materials that come into contact with raising or caring for your live poultry, such as cages, feeders, and water containers outdoors is also strongly suggested.

Several local and state public health and animal health departments have been working to jointly educate consumers about purchasing live poultry from hatcheries and through live animal and live bird markets. Those interested in purchasing live poultry are advised to buy birds from hatcheries that participate in the US Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan (USDA-NPIP) Voluntary Salmonella Monitoring Program. Their goal is to reduce the incidence of Salmonella in baby poultry in the hatchery.

The CDC advises individuals to remember that “regardless of where they were purchased, all live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean.” This includes organically fed poultry.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has closed investigations into this multi-state outbreak. Eight outbreaks occurred through 48 states with the CDC reporting a total of 895 cases of Salmonella infections. Of these cases, 209 hospitalizations occurred, and while three deaths were reported, Salmonella was considered to be the cause in only one of these cases. Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings linked all of the outbreaks to live poultry, sourced from several hatcheries. Officials emphasize Salmonella infections can still occur from live poultry, including backyard flocks. According to a final update from the CDC, “This year saw the largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded. These outbreaks are a reminder to follow steps to keep your family healthy while enjoying your backyard flock.”