Notes from the Field: Salmonella from baby chickens!


PEEPS at Tractor Supply! (Photo credit, J. Carpenter)

If you like to have a good time on the “cheep” like I do, you should go over to Tractor Supply on Route 30 and play with the spring Peeps. Not the marshmallow fluff candies you get at Target; baby chickens and ducks! Or should you?

Via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Notes from the Field alert that is timely which details a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infection attributable to live poultry from a single mail order egg hatchery. In early 2012, clusters of Salmonella infection were identified resulting ultimately in 195 confirmed cases. Molecular typing of patient isolates suggested a single source of infection, and interviews with the patients indicated that they all had contact with live poultry in the week before their illness. The poultry had been purchases either directly from a hatchery or at general animal feed stores, for the purposes of backyard flocks for meat and eggs. The majority of the cases were ultimately traced back to a mail-order hatchery in Ohio.

The hatchery in question has been compliant with federal guidelines (the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan –USDA-NPIP), which has effectively eliminated many significant strains of Salmonella from American poultry flocks. However, the program does not monitor all strains of Salmonella, for the simple reason that this grouping of bacteria is extremely large and difficult to monitor completely.

CDC recommendations from this outbreak include continuing and expanding existing Salmonella surveillance procedures. Best practices for avoiding consumer outbreaks require a concerted effort between hatcheries, feed stores, and consumers, and include:

  • Hatcheries should comply with best practices in sanitation, and avoiding re-shipping chicks obtained from other hatcheries
  • Feed stores should use barriers between customers and poultry displays
  • Signage should warn customers of potential risks in poultry handling
  • Additionally, you should not put peeps into your mouth

Annually, 42,000 cases of Salmonellosis are reported in the United States, however as many cases are not serious, it is estimated that the actual number of Salmonella infections may be as high as 1.2 million cases annually. About 400 people die each year from Salmonella, and these patients are generally either the very young, the elderly, or otherwise immunocompromised. It is a food-borne acquired infection, best controlled by proper cooking of potentially contaminated food, and by frequent hand washing. Just make sure you use the offered hand sanitizer when you leave Tractor Supply!


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on March 22, 2013, in Wash your hands!, Yikes!. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I still really want to see the chickens in the basement!

  2. Jessica Morrow

    Great article! My son used this for his “hot news” assignment for school!

    • Notes From The Field updates are suitable for all school projects. Well, maybe not the botulism due to prison hooch update from a few weeks ago.

  3. Nice peep menace graphic!

  4. Kaitlyn Geiger

    Great now I have to be careful with my pet hedgehogs AND my pet chickens!

  5. Kaitlyn Geiger

    Haha I actually did have turtles and I think they are known to carry salmonella. It’s a wonder I’m still alive!

    • I did refer to the Great Turtle Menace with this posting from long ago.

      On a monumental note, this comment is number 1000. It has only taken two and a half years, five semesters, and approximately 250 students to reach this milestone. However, I account for close to half of the comments.

  6. I’m not sure the exact statistic, but I also read that a very very high percentage, above 70% of the chicks and baby bunnies given to children at Easter die in their first year of life – so both sides can benefit if left be, parents can keep themselves and their children healthy and animals can live!

    • Well, to be sure the baby chickens in the photograph my spouse provided up above are going to be eaten sometime in the next year anyway. They are coming from Tractor Supply after all.

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