April showers bring May flowers.
…and I can’t come up with a good rhyme for salmonellosis.
Nonetheless, it’s Salmonella season, courtesy of cute but biohazardous baby poultry.
You can buy chicken, turkey and other bird eggs to hatch every spring. Our local feed mill had the order forms out a while ago, and you can also buy them over the internet. Some schools still buy them.
The problem is baby poultry are high risk for shedding Salmonella (and Campylobacter, another problematic bacterium). Every year, outbreaks of disease in people occur from contact with hatching chicks, so the message isn’t getting around or getting through to people.
In the latest CDC report, 60 people in 23 US states have been diagnosed with salmonellosis linked to a single hatchery that "has been associated with multiple outbreaks of salmonellosis linked to live poultry in past years, including in 2012 and 2013." (How many outbreaks does it take to tell you your company is probably doing something wrong, or in the wrong business?)
The figure of 60 infected people is probably an underestimate, since it’s expected that many people were probably sick but didn’t go to a doctor or submit a stool sample for testing. Of the 60 diagnosed cases, 31% ended up hospitalized, re-enforcing that fact that this is a serious problem.
While the hatchery said they are “working collaboratively with authorities at the Ohio Department of Agriculture and CDC as they proceed with their investigation,” the Ohio Deptartment of Agriculture tellingly stated “The more accurate description of our relationship with that company has been we have tried to provide guidance through the years, but I don’t know how many of the recommendations that we have brought to them have actually been implemented.”
Sadly (and bizarrely, from my standpoint) the agiculture department doesn’t have any authority to require the hatchery to implement recommended changes. "We’re trying to tell them what they need to do in order to keep this from happening every year." How many people does one company need to sicken before they are forced to do things right (or shut down)?
This report shows a few things.
- Some people just don’t learn (sellers and buyers alike)
- Regulation of animal production for sale to the general public is horribly lax
- Contact with young poultry is a major risk factor for salmonellosis.
- The industrial scale of production of eggs for hatching chicks (and some pet species) means that a problem with a single facility can lead to widespread disease.
- It’s a "buyer beware" world. Don’t trust that the critter you just bought is pathogen free, and take measures to protect yourself.
- High-risk individuals should not be around hatching chicks because of the risk of salmonellosis. This includes kids less than 5 years of age (a key target group for sellers), elderly individuals, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.
Photo copyright: piep600 / 123RF Stock Photo