Live chicks and ducklings from a mail-order hatchery in Ohio are being blamed for a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 93 people in 23 states -- including one possible death.
This is the second time in a year that the Mount Healthy Hatchery near Cincinnati has been implicated in outbreaks of multiple strains of salmonella from live poultry.
At least 18 people have been hospitalized in connection with the latest outbreak, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than a third of victims are children younger than 10.
Government health officials posted the report late Wednesday, the same day that CDC researchers published a summary of an eight-year outbreak of salmonella Montevideo tied to young poultry from a West Coast hatchery. At least 316 people were sickened between 2004 and 2011, said CDC officials, who declined to identify the hatchery.
The latest outbreak detected infections caused by strains of salmonella Infantis, salmonella Newport and salmonella Lille. The MountHealthy Hatchery was implicated in an 2011 outbreak of salmonella Altona and salmonella Johannesburg infections. State agriculture officials inspected the site last year and made recommendations for improvements.
CDC officials did not indicate which state was investigating a possible death tied to the new outbreak, which includes infections reported between March 1 and May 19. Sick people range in age from less than 1 to 100 years and 37 percent of victims are age 10 or younger.
There have been some three dozen salmonella outbreaks tied to mail-order poultry since 1990, said Casey Barton Behravesh, a veterinarian and researcher with the CDC. The young poultry are sold at agricultural feed stores or shipped directly to consumers by mail.
Live poultry can carry and shed salmonella even when they appear healthy and they can transmit the virus to humans after contact with the birds, their feed or their environment.
Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible to salmonella infections, but even healthy people can become seriously ill.
Health officials urge consumers to be vigilant about thorough hand-washing after handling poultry and about avoiding potential contamination.
It's up to agriculture officials to work with industry to insure the safety of the birds, said Tony Forshey, the Ohio state veterinarian who has inspected and advised the Mount Healthy Hatchery throughout the recent outbreaks. But consumers also need to realize that live chicks and ducklings are livestock, not pets.
"The industry has a responsibility," he said. "But, to me, the public has a responsibility to be educated as well."
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