Salmonella is transmitted to humans through infected food (eggs and meat) or animal droppings, especially backyard poultry. It can be found in the droppings and on the bodies of live poultry such as chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, even if they look perfectly healthy and clean. While Salmonella does not usually cause serious illness in birds, and in fact even resides in their microflora, for humans this bacteria can lead to serious complications.
As more and more people are taking up backyard farming, this has resulted in an increased number of registered cases. In the US alone, registered cases of Salmonella infection went from 1,100 in 2019 to more than 1,700 in 2020! And just like with any disease, the data we have at our disposal reflects only registered cases, which means that the real cases can probably be counted in thousands.
The good news is that most of the transmissions can be prevented with very simple steps. Here are some of the essential items you need to take care of in order to prevent getting Salmonella while still enjoying backyard chicken keeping
#1 Keep clean and wash
Washing hands is the most crucial aspect in preventing transmissions of all viruses and bacteria. Each time after handling backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything else in the vicinity of where they dwell and wander, immediately wash your hands with soap and hot water to avoid spreading the disease. If soap and water are not readily accessible, use hand sanitizer to disinfect your hands immediately but keep in mind that it is not a perfect substitute for a proper soap and water wash.
Other types of contact with chickens such as kissing should be an absolute no-go, regardless of the cleanliness of your coop or how strong your immune system is. Since youngsters have a more fragile immune system, it is advisable to pay special attention as they interact with the birds. Interacting with birds and then touching eyes or mouth area without prior washing is not a good idea. It is also advisable not to wear the same clothes in the house and while dealing with chickens.
#2 Keep distance between your flock and food storage
Keep backyard poultry away from areas where food is cooked, served, or stored. Although direct contact with poultry is the main transmission method, airborne transmission is still a possibility however small.
#3 Check and collect eggs regularly
Collect eggs frequently. Nurtured eggs might get unclean or crack; also, it is advisable to discard broken eggs immediately. Germs on the shell might penetrate the egg more easily through a fractured shell. And lastly, refrigerate eggs after collecting and washing them. Even as you do all this and take precautionary measures, we still advise highly against raw eggs, unless you are as strong as Sylvester Stallone and need to practice for the next sequel of Rocky or Creed movie.
Backyard poultry is fun and exciting. It is a wholesome process that has many benefits. However, backyard fowl such as chickens and ducks can transmit Salmonella infections. These diseases are contagious and may rapidly spread to anything in areas where chickens reside and wander. In majority of cases, you can expect to be down with diarrhea for a few days until recovery however some cases may end up requiring hospitalization. The main message however is not that you need to develop a fear of Salmonella but rather that you need to develop awareness of it and know the simple steps you need to put in place to protect yourself and your loved ones.