New Mexico health officials have announced that the state’s laboratory department has pinpointed the source of a Sammonella Typhimurium outbreak that has so far sickened 316 people in 37 states, most of them children.
Privett Hatchery, located in Portales, N.M., supplies baby chicks, ducklings and other live baby poultry to feed stores and mail order customers nationwide, state health officials said. The strain was found in a duck pen at the hatchery.
No deaths were reported, but at least 51 people have been hospitalized and 59 percent of those who fell ill were children age 10 or younger, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said.
The CDC said Privett Hatchery participates in the US Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan program, which is designed to eliminate certain Samonella strains in poultry breeding flocks and hatcheries. However, it noted that the program doesn’t certify that the poultry are free from other strains that cause human illnesses.
The agency said the trace-back investigation identified 18 mail-order hatcheries in multiple states that supplied the feed stores and that most of the investigations identified Privett Hatchery as the source. It also said that when a hatchery isn’t able to fill a customer’s order, it often calls on another hatchery to ship the poultry.
The agency noted that customers might not realize that the source of the purchased birds was different from the one where they placed their order. There will have to be more testing before they can confirm the source because the people sickened had bought the baby birds from 18 mail order hatcheries in several states.
Retta Ward, MPH, New Mexico’s department of health secretary, said the hatchery, which has been an innovator in reducing Salmonella levels in baby poultry, has been very cooperative in identifying the source of the infections and has worked with the officials from numerous agencies.
Privett Hatchery said in a statement on its website, “As always, we will focus on our responsibility to educate consumers on proper care and handling of the birds. Please remember. Chicks purchased from any hatchery should be considered farm animals—not pets—and should be treated as such.”
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