The salmonellosis outbreak in the US associated with hatching chicks continues to expand. The outbreak, ironically associated with Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio, has now sickened at least 344 people in 42 US states and Puerto Rico with a variety of Salmonella serotypes (S. Infants, S. Newport and S. Hadar). The outbreak shows no sign of abating, with another 42 cases identified in the past 6 weeks.
As is often the case, young people are more often affected, with 33% of sick individuals being 10 years of age or younger. Thirty-two percent of infected individuals have been hospitalized.
Unfortunately, the regulatory response in situations like this is most often to give places like the hatchery in question "guidance" as opposed to imposing mandatory measures. However, this is really a "buyer beware" situation, in which people purchasing hatching chicks need to be aware of the high risks associated with young poultry, and take appropriate precautions to manage them. While Salmonella-free eggs and chicks would be ideal, it’s not particularly realistic. People need to be more proactive themselves and listen to established infection control practices, which include keeping kids less than five years of age away from young poultry.
Hopefully schools will pay attention to these recommendations when they’re planning their annual (and often poorly managed) hatching chick activities in the spring.