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Pandemic's Backyard Poultry Increase Linked To Salmonella Cases

Terry MacPheat

The demand to raise poultry like chickens and ducks rose during the pandemic — and so did salmonella cases nationally and statewide.

On Tuesday the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services announced that an increase in Montana salmonella cases was linked to raising backyard poultry. Epidemiologist Rachel Hinnenkamp says it’s great more people are trying their hand at raising their own flock but there are risks to the practice.

“Your birds can look and act healthy, but they can still have bacteria in their feathers that can make you sick.”

Last year, 24 Montanans were linked to a country-wide outbreak of over 1,700 salmonella cases. In total, over 330 people were hospitalized in what became the largest multi-state outbreak in over a decade.

Hinnenkamp says she typically sees more cases during the spring season as people order and add more chicks and ducklings to their flocks.

There are already eight confirmed salmonella cases in Montana this year, with half of those patients being hospitalized for the disease. Hinnenkamp says that percentage is abnormally high. All eight cases carried the same salmonella strain from exposure to live poultry.

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.
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