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3 Salmonella cases linked to ducklings; Minn. health officials urge precautions

ST. PAUL - Minnesota Department of Health investigators have linked three cases of salmonellosis to ducklings purchased from the Tractor Supply Company store in Inver Grove Heights.

The three cases are associated with a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella-related illness being investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state health officials said Tuesday.

The Minnesotans who got sick ranged in age from 18 to 60. All three cases occurred from late March through early April and were caused by the Salmonella infantis bacteria, which has been previously associated with poultry.

While these three cases had one type of Salmonella bacteria in common, any chick or duck can carry a variety of Salmonella strains, state health officials warned.

Dr. Joni Scheftel, state public health veterinarian with the Minnesota Department of Health, said the outbreak underscores the importance of washing your hands thoroughly after handling chicks, ducklings or other birds.

“Chicks and ducklings can be a great attraction for children and families this time of year, but they can also be a source of illness,” Scheftel said. “That is why it is so important for people handling them to take steps to prevent infection.”

Young children are especially at risk of contracting Salmonella from chicks and ducks and are also more likely to develop serious complications. During a similar outbreak of salmonellosis in 2008, nine of 14 chick-associated cases were in children 12 or younger.

Salmonella illness can cause diarrhea, vomiting and fever. About one in five of the cases reported each year to the Minnesota Department of Health are severe enough to require hospitalization.

State health officials urge people to wash their hands after handling live poultry and to avoid eating or drinking around poultry or poultry yards. Parents should not let children younger than 5 handle or play with live poultry, and older children should be supervised while handling poultry.

Birds may shed Salmonella bacteria even when they appear healthy. Birds that look clean may still have enough germs on their feathers or feet to infect a human.