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Salmonella connected to chicks from mail-order hatchery
No deaths have been reported in this outbreak
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Avoiding salmonella

Tips to prepare eggs, poultry and other foods to avoid the bacteria

• Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils and countertops after preparing raw foods.

• Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.

• Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145 F for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160 F for ground meats and 165 F for all poultry.

• Keep your refrigerator below 40 F and refrigerate food that will spoil.

• Don't prepare food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting.

• Be especially careful preparing food for children, pregnant woman, those in poor health and older adults.

• Always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

• Refrigerate leftovers promptly.

• Don't let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90 F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.

• Be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag.

• Discard cracked or dirty eggs. Make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked to 160 F.

• Avoid dishes that use raw or undercooked eggs.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov.

An outbreak of salmonella altona bacteria affecting 39 people in 14 states — including one in Georgia — has been linked to chicks and ducklings from a mail-order hatchery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The birds were purchased from the hatchery by a national agricultural store, then sold to the public.

Salmonella usually grow in the intestines of poultry and end up in fecal matter, which the animals can sit in and get on their feathers and fluff, said Michael Doyle, academic director of the Center for Food Safety-Georgia.

"It's spread from chick to chick because they're coprophagic, meaning they eat their feces and the feces of others," Doyle said. "What the CDC is saying is people will buy these chicks around Easter time for their kids.

If salmonella is in the fecal matter and a kid touches them, they can become contaminated."

Doyle said consumers can protect themselves from contracting salmonella from infected live poultry by washing their hands immediately after contact, and making sure small children don't touch a bird and then put their hands in their mouths or around their eyes.

Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, said consumers should also avoid close facial contact with birds to minimize their risk.

The hatchery suspected of selling the birds involved in this outbreak is Mount Healthy Hatchery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He said there are products available to treat eggs in hatcheries, but added the poultry industry has a variety of techniques to keep contamination at a minimum.

"Salmonella usually does not produce disease or make birds sick," Louise Dufour-Zavala, executive director of the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network, wrote in an email to The Times. "However, producers should make sure that sound management practices are in effect at the farm and at the hatchery, such as a clean environment, effective rodent control and cleaning and disinfection of premises or equipment between uses. They also have vaccinations at their disposal."

Giles said he was not sure of any statistics showing it was more or less common to contract salmonella from live birds than from poultry products.

"Considering that most people do not have contact with live birds and most who do are never infected, I would say it is very uncommon," he said in an email to The Times. "While the presence of salmonella on raw chickens has been reduced dramatically, the rate of infection in humans from salmonella from all food sources has remained steady over the past 15 years. ... As with any raw meat product, consumers should be reminded to properly handle and cook chicken to ensure safe consumption."

Most symptoms of salmonella are mild.

"Perhaps there's diarrhea for a few days, and you ride it out," Doyle said. "The more severe cases can ultimately lead to complications including death."

No deaths have been reported in relation to this outbreak.

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