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National outbreaks of salmonella include cases in Northern Virginia

A chicken on the move (via James Wainscoat/Unsplash)

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and growing concerns about monkeypox, a recent, national surge in salmonella cases linked to live poultry has flown relatively under the radar.

However, the bacteria has spread to 48 states since early February, infecting 572 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Northern Virginia hasn’t been immune.

As of last Tuesday (July 19), there have been 11 cases reported in Virginia, including two in the state’s northern region, the Virginia Department of Health said. Eight of the cases have been tied to exposure to live poultry, and one resulted in a hospitalization.

It’s unclear whether either of the Northern Virginia cases occurred in Fairfax County, since the data typically isn’t released on a local or county level, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.

For the three cases not linked to poultry exposure, VDH says it’s unsure how the illness was contracted.

“Those cases could be either lost to follow-up (unable to contact them for interview/investigation) or we have not received their exposure information from the local health district that conducted the investigation for that case,” wrote Kelsey Holloman, who manages VDH’s Foodborne Disease Epidemiology program.

Overall, the U.S. poultry salmonella outbreak has led to 92 hospitalizations and two deaths. It has been more than a month since the last recorded case on June 22, though the CDC says the actual case numbers are likely higher since many people recover without medical care and don’t get tested.

Caused by a bacteria that lives in the intestines of people and animals, salmonella can be spread through contact with contaminated food or drink as well as infected animals and their environment. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.

While most people recover without treatment in four to seven days, the illness can be more severe for young children, adults over 65, and immunocompromised individuals, according to the CDC.

Per VDH, tips for avoiding infection include:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after touching live poultry/backyard flocks, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.
  • Keep backyard flocks and flock supplies outside.
  • Do not let young children (under 5) handle backyard flocks, including chicks and ducklings

Earlier this year, salmonella outbreak tied to Jif peanut butter led to 21 total cases in 17 states, including four hospitalizations, VDH says. The CDC closed its investigation into that outbreak earlier in July.

The CDC estimates salmonella cause about 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the U.S. annually.

Photo via James Wainscoat/Unsplash

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