The mystery behind a long-running, eight-year Salmonella outbreak has been linked to a mail order hatchery. This, following years of tests, tracebacks, and interviews.
The outbreak, said MSNBC, sickened 316 people in 43 states between 2004 and 2011. The strain, Salmonella Montevideo, has worried the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which believe another 5,000 cases have gone unreported. The cases were linked to a location dubbed “Hatchery C” and involved baby chicks and a complete review of the Salmonella fingerprint and collaboration with human and animal health officials and poultry experts. “Hatchery C” supplies some 4 million birds annually and is only identified as being located in the Western United States, said MSNBC.
“It was definitely an interesting outbreak,” said Casey Barton Behravesh, of the CDC research team that reported on its investigation in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. “The problem seems to be under control,” said Behravesh, a veterinarian with the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Behravesh warned that Salmonella illness linked to mail-order chick, duckling, and other young fowl shipments is a significant problem. “Most people can tell you that chicken meat can have Salmonella in it,” she told MSNBC, “but they can’t tell you that live chickens have Salmonella.”
The CDC declined to name “Hatchery C” because of its cooperation and because the threat of infection appears to have passed; only one case of the outbreak strain has been reported in 2012, said MSNBC. The live, young chicks are commonly given as Easter presents or used to populate urban backyard chicken farms. As we’ve written, the growing practice of raising chicks and ducklings in so-called “backyard” farms may be spreading the dangerous Salmonella pathogen in unexpected ways.
Raising backyard chickens, typically for their eggs, is a growing movement among people hoping to be in closer contact with their food; however, said CDC physicians previously, people may be unaware of the prevalence of Salmonella in poultry, which can appear healthy, but can still carry and transmit food borne pathogenic diseases, such as Salmonella. While generally associated with human and pet food poisoning, a growing percentage of Salmonella-related poisonings initiate with live animals, such as pet chicks and ducklings and pet reptiles. Animals can carry a variety of Salmonella strains without exhibiting symptoms, typically releasing the germ in their feces.
Meanwhile, the Salmonella Montevideo outbreak—as with most of the Salmonella outbreaks tied to young, live chicks—mostly sickens children under the age of 5, said MSNBC. In this case 80% of the illnesses reported were traced back to “Hatchery C,” known to ship about 250,000 birds a week in the spring, its peak season.
MSNBC explained that young poultry can become infected by contact with birds from a number of sources, with infected hens, or through contaminated feed. Mail-order birds might become stressed during shipping, which causes them to shed the pathogen, transferring the bacteria and making eradication difficult
MSNBC noted that since 1990, 35 outbreaks of Salmonella have been linked to shipments of live, young poultry. CDC officials continue an investigation on which we previously wrote involving two separate outbreaks and Salmonella Altona and Salmonella Johannesburg. The outbreaks have sickened about 100 people in 24 states and, when last we wrote, originated at a mail order hatchery located in Ohio. These outbreaks are of particular concern because about 30% of the victims have been young children under the age of 5.