Chicken Coop Chatter©
Each year there are reports from the CDC about outbreaks of Salmonella, not just in chickens, but in other products such as peanut butter, spinach and other fresh foods.
Salmonella is naturally in the intestines of chickens as well as other fowl, and is every reason why we are cautioned about handling raw meat, cooking meat thoroughly and eggs until they are done. But chickens are not the only carriers of Salmonella. Painted turtles, bearded dragons and snakes all carry salmonella and have been common household *pets*.
For many years, restaurants have added a statement to their menus, warning about ordering rare meat and sunny side up eggs, because pathogens if not heated to a certain temperature still exist in the food and can make a person ill.
Most outbreaks of illnesses and diseases is from poor handling methods. Washing hands with soap and water before handling is still the best method of prevention, and keeping tools, counters and environment clean before and after handling.
Surprisingly even in hospitals where the environment is deemed sterile, it is reported that there are still illnesses that are only contracted in a hospital environment, such as C-diff. There are cautions all over in hospitals about washing hands with soap and water and at every room and lobby there are sanitizing stations, yet potential illness still lurks.
Grocery stores for sometime now have had sanitizing stations at the entrance and throughout the stores, so that as people handle the produce, and carts, they are less apt to pass along pathogens that others may not be immune to.
Generally a strong and healthy immune system wards off common illness such as Salmonella, however small children, and elder adults or those with weak immune systems will often succumb to those illnesses and caution needs to be in place for those individuals.
Raising chickens or other fowl brings with it a risk of salmonella and other illness, just as with any livestock or your household pets. Many illnesses and diseases carried by animals can and do infect people. Living in an environment where animals are in close proximity of humans means extra precautions need to be in place and people need to be far more aware of hygiene and bio-security when raising any animals.
It is especially important to teach children to wash with soap and water and to monitor to make sure they follow through properly after handling any and all animals. Adults need a reminder, that washing before handling food is an important part of bio-security. This is especially important as you do your daily chores from coop, pen to kitchen that you wash with soap and water. Wash boots and shoes that you have worn in the farmyard, barnyard or backyard and leave them outside, so you are not tracking pathogens indoors.
Dogs are notorious for rolling in manure and eating manure, yet many keep their dogs indoors and allow those dogs to lick their face or kiss them and allow them on the furniture. That alone can and will spread illness and disease especially in children.
It seems we have adopted some very poor habits by coddling our animals and bringing domestic animals indoors living within our own environment, rather than outdoors where they are intended to be. We have also neglected to wash with soap and water after handling animals or our shoes, and neglected to teach our children proper hygiene when handling any animals.
The Center for Disease control has charted salmonella outbreaks since 1962 and in particular the years through the 90s to 2014. In this country of over 300M people, there have only been approximately 2600 illnesses related to salmonella from fowl during that time period. Of those reported, only 5 people with weakened or low immune systems have succumbed to the illness. All others have recovered from the illness. This obviously does not warrant a pandemic or reason for panic. There have been far more reports of salmonella in other foods, such as peanut butter and spinach. Poultry has a far lower number of cases than what are reported and investigated in other products.
The CDC encourages good hygiene and bio-security as the utmost prevention of any and all illness and disease. They further recommend that animals be kept outdoors, not in a household living environment, and that children especially not to be handling the animals without also being taught thorough hygiene; to not only wash well, but never to put hands in their mouths or on their faces when handling animals.
Every year there are some cases of salmonella with spring chicks and ducklings. It is important to know that washing with soap and water is a must when handling those fluffy babies, but it's also important to know that salmonella is not exclusive to baby chicks or ducklings. Salmonella can happen at any age and stage of life in fowl, amphibians and reptiles.
When purchasing any fowl, whether from a hatchery, breeder or a bird auction or exhibition, quarantine at least two weeks and up to a month to prevent infestation of illness, disease or parasites. Never bring any livestock into an existing flock or herd without proper quarantine. This should also be common practice when bringing pets into a new environment with existing pets. It would be cost prohibitive to have a veterinarian examine every new farm animal that you may purchase, therefore it will be necessary for you to practice good bio-security by quarantining those new additions and monitoring for any signs of illness or parasites.
All exhibition birds should be vaccinated against diseases no less than a month prior to those shows. This is for your safety as well as the safety of other exhibitors. Most show coordinators require proof of vaccination and vet examination prior to submitting entry forms. However make note, this is not generally a requirement at swap meets or auctions, so it is up to you to discern the risks.
Prevention is always the very best remedy. When hatching eggs in incubators, make sure all equipment is sterilized between use. Use only the cleanest of the eggs to prevent contamination and spread of disease from the egg shell to the newly hatched chicks. When brooding chicks, make sure their environment is cleaned regularly and their water and feed dishes are kept clean and sterilized. Providing containers that the chicks cannot walk through keeps them clean and free of feces. If you have more than one holding pen or coop, make sure to wash your hands or use sterile hand wipes before handling the birds from one coop or pen to another. ALWAYS wash your hands between tending any animals and the kitchen to avoid contamination of food. This includes gathering eggs when you are depositing them in the kitchen. Food borne illnesses most often come from improper sanitation in the kitchen environment. When you break farm eggs for cooking do no break them directly over a bowl or pan to prevent any pathogens from entering the food. If you need reminders or reminders to children, post decorative signs wherever the animals are fed and at the door to the house and kitchen to wash with soap and water until these practices become habit rather than an after thought. Cook eggs and meat thoroughly. Chicken should be cooked until the core temperature is 165 at the thickest portion of the meat to ensure that it is done in the center. And never leave raw or cooked meat or cooked eggs out on the counter or picnic table unless you are able to keep them cold.
With proper hygiene, the bio-security measures in place and instructing others that may visit your flocks, you should be able to continue to enjoy your birds well into the future with fewer risks of illness in your family or your flocks.
NOTE: For further information about Salmonella in poultry please visit CDC (Center for Disease Control). http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/live-poultry-05-14/index.html
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