Salmonella outbreak linked to live chicks at Alberta hatchery

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it's investigating an outbreak of salmonella in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan that is linked to live chicks at an Alberta hatchery.

Alberta Agriculture is working with the unnamed hatchery to determine the source of the infection

The Public Health Agency of Canada is investigating a salmonella outbreak linked to live chicks at an Alberta hatchery.

The agency says 34 people became ill between April 5 and May 12:

  • 17 in Alberta.
  • 13 in B.C.
  • 4 in Saskatchewan.

Alberta Agriculture is leading the animal health portion of the investigation, and is working with the hatchery to determine the source of the infected live baby poultry, the federal agency says.

Symptoms of salmonella include fever, chills, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, nausea and vomiting that usually last four to seven days. In healthy people, the illness often clears up without treatment.

In general, the risk to Canadians is low. Children under five years old, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weak immune systems shouldn't handle or touch live poultry.

Young children are considered at higher risk of infection because they may not wash their hands before putting fingers or contaminated items in their mouths, and their immune systems are still developing, the agency says.

"If you have been in contact with live poultry and develop symptoms of a salmonella infection that persist or are severe, you should consult a health professional and mention your exposure to live poultry," the agency advises.

The infection is usually contracted from food. Since live animals can transmit the bacteria in their feces, you can also contract salmonella from a bird, its droppings or from environments where birds have been.

Other recommendations include:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm soap and water immediately after touching live poultry or any items around where birds have been. Adults should help children wash their hands.
  • If you can't wash your hands right away, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash with soap and water.
  • Keep any live poultry away from your face. Don't snuggle or kiss the birds.
  • Keep your hands away from your face while handling live poultry until you have washed your hands.
  • Keep live poultry and poultry equipment outside your home and away from places where people eat or make food.

Veterinarians have also advised precautions, such as avoiding contact with dogs and cats less than six months old, reptiles, amphibians, rodents and chicks or ducklings, especially in homes with very young children or high-risk patients, including those being treated for cancer.

In the U.S., salmonella infections have been linked to hatcheries for more than 50 years.

With files from The Associated Press