Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. These germs have been known to cause illness for more than 100 years. They were discovered by an American scientist named Salmon, for whom they are named.
Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
As more people are keeping poultry as pets, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified an uptick in the number of people contracting Salmonella after contact with backyard birds. All live poultry can carry and transmit Salmonella, even when the birds appear healthy. According to the CDC, “Live poultry might have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies (feathers, feet, and beaks), even when they appear healthy and clean.”
Instruct patients to clean their hands, especially after handling poultry or anything in the birds’ environment. Immediately after touching food or water dishes, and cleaning cages, patients should clean your hands. Using soap and running water is best, but hand sanitizer may be used instead. Make sure the hand sanitizer contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Also, keep the birds away from their mouths. This means no kissing or snuggling near your mouth. Be sure to clean your hands before eating or drinking, and after touching poultry or any items where the birds live. The CDC says, “Don’t let live poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.”
What you can do:
- Determine that the illness is Salmonella though laboratory tests.
- Ensure that the patient remains hydrated.
- Use antibiotic therapy only for at-risk patients.
Advise patients to avoid Salmonella infection by:
- Practicing safe food handling – clean, separate, cook, chill
- Keeping backyard poultry outside of the home
- Cleaning hands after contact with poultry and their environment
- Knowing that backyard poultry can transmit Salmonella and other infections even when the birds appear healthy
Learn more and share:
- Cute, fluffy, and harboring bacteria? The truth about backyard poultry.—APIC Consumer Alert
- Preventing foodborne illness—APIC Consumer Alert
- Salmonella—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Salmonella Guidance Documents & Regulatory Information—U.S. Food and Drug Administration