Hundreds of Salmonella Cases Tied to Baby Chicks
Those cute mail-order chicks that wind up in children's Easter baskets and backyard farms have been linked to more than 300 cases of salmonella in the U.S. - mostly in youngsters - since 2004.
An estimated 50 million live poultry are sold through the mail each year in the United States in a business that has been booming because of the growing popularity of backyard chicken farming as a hobby among people who like the idea of raising their own food.
But health officials are warning of a bacterial threat on the birds' feet, feathers, beaks and eggs.
"Most people can tell you that chicken meat may have salmonella on it," said Casey Barton Behravesh of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "But surprisingly, we found many people are not aware that live chicks and chickens can spread salmonella to people."
Since 2004, at least 316 people in 43 states got sick in an outbreak tied primarily to one mail-order hatchery. Health officials believe thousands more illnesses connected to the business were probably never reported.
No one died, but three dozen people were hospitalized with bloody diarrhea or other symptoms. The illnesses were detailed Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.