Thirteen in Washington Sickened in Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Backyard Poultry


The Washington State Department of Health is investigating 13 cases of salmonella linked to backyard poultry.

The cases are part of a nationwide outbreak that has sickened 104 people in 31 states, DOH said.

Cases have been reported in eight Washington counties: Kitsap (3), Spokane (2), Yakima (2), King (2), Grant (1), Thurston (1), Skagit (1) and Cowlitz (1). Four people have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported in Washington, the department said in a news release.

700 to 1,000 salmonella cases are reported annually in Washington, according to DOH.

Salmonellosis is a common bacterial infection caused by any of more than 2,000 strains of salmonella, which can be found in poultry manure. These bacteria infect the intestinal tract and occasionally the blood of both humans and animals, causing diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal discomfort and occasional vomiting, according to DOH.

Symptoms typically appear one to three days after exposure and can last four to seven days, usually resolving without treatment. Some people may experience more severe illnesses and require medical treatment or hospitalization. People younger than 5, 65 and older or with weakened immune systems should avoid handling backyard poultry or anything else where poultry live or roam. Children younger than 5 should not touch birds.

Backyard poultry can carry salmonella even if they look healthy and clean. The bacteria can easily spread to cages, coops, hay, plants and soil in the area where the birds live, the department said.

To prevent infection, the department recommends thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water after touching poultry, soil or objects the poultry had contact with. Don't kiss or snuggle poultry, and don't eat or drink around poultry. Poultry and the supplies used to care for them should be kept outside of your home, where the flock is separated from wildlife. Inside your home, safely handle, cook and store eggs.

"If you have a backyard flock, take steps to protect yourself and your family from salmonella infection," said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the Washington chief science officer at DOH.