Backyard chickens are leading cause of salmonella infections in US

People really need to be educated on what to do, says a local doctor

Fred Bodimer
September 25, 2019 - 1:13 pm

(KMOX) — A word of warning if you own backyard chickens. Good sanitation practice is a must — or you may end up with a salmonella infection.

Bacteria linked to backyard poultry flocks has now stricken more than 1,000 Americans this year, killing two and hospitalizing 175.  It is the biggest cause of salmonella infection in the United States.

"This is one of those things that for the last 50 years we didn't really deal with in the United States healthcare system," said Dr. Fred Buckhold, a SLU Care internal medicine specialist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. "Poultry had long been raised by professional farmers and the backyard chicken disappeared. But now that it is back, people really aren't educated on what to do to be safe."

Here's what's happening, according to Dr. Buckhold. "My neighbor has chickens and my kids are always trying to chase them and cuddle with them," he said. "While they are unsuccessful, if you do have success, you are contaminating yourself with salmonella. And if you are out walking in your backyard, and you have chickens roaming out there, you have to change your shoes. Bringing shoes into the house that might have chicken stool and bacteria on them — especially if you wear them into the kitchen or a food preparation area — puts you at risk."

So what should we be doing?

"You have to maintain a clean environment and try to avoid the contamination of poultry stool and having that contaminate the human environment," Dr. Buckhold tells KMOX. 

"Good sanitation is really important every time you handle poultry," said Dr. Buckhold. "You have to wash your hands with soap or use alcohol rub to really kill the bacteria. You have to change your shoes when coming back into the house."

For every one case reported, it is estimated another 29 are not — suggesting 29,000 people have been sickened by their backyard birds this year.  

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