Backyard chickens sicken people in 44 U.S. states
The most recent illnesses began on June 21, with 88 of the cases reported in the last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said in an advisory.
The federal agency is working with multiple states in investigating several outbreaks of salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry in backyard flocks, it said.
A half-dozen strains of salmonella bacteria have sickened people starting in the middle of February, with 34 of the 212 sickened people hospitalized.
More than a quarter of those stricken were under the age of 5, according to the CDC. Young children are particularly vulnerable because their immune systems are still developing, and they're more likely to put items like fingers and pacifiers in their mouths.
The six states so far not affected are North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. The District of Columbia was also spared.
Chicks and ducklings from multiple hatcheries have been tied to the outbreaks, and many of the people stricken reported getting chicks and ducklings from sources including feed supply stores, websites, hatcheries and relatives, said the agency.
It added that some of the infections have proven difficult to treat with common antibiotics, requiring another type to be used.
Birds can carry salmonella bacteria even though they may appear healthy and clean, and people can be infected by touching live poultry or objects in their environment, the health agency cautioned.
"Even handling baby birds displayed at stores can cause a salmonella infection," the CDC said. ■