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Widespread Salmonella Outbreak Tied to Duck Hatchery

After eluding detection for years, a prolific salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 316 people – most of whom were children – has finally been linked to chicks and ducklings from a mail order hatchery. Even after the source was identified and the hatchery was cleaned and sanitized, the rare genotype of salmonella continued to sicken people who bought poultry hatched there for another five years. Signs and symptoms of salmonella food poisoning (salmonellosis) include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Free Salmonella Food Poisoning Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with salmonella poisoning, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit and we can help.

What’s the problem?

The outbreak, which apparently began in 2004 and continued into 2011, involved the rare and illusive Salmonella Montevideo strain. The first illnesses connected to the hatchery were reported in Colorado, but eventually infections occurred in 43 states. Among 266 patients confirmed to have the sickness, the median age was four years old.

Of 156 interviews conducted by Nicholas Gaffga, MD, MPH, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues, approximately half had bloody diarrhea, indicating a severe infection, and nearly 25% had been hospitalized. After extensive research, Gaffga and colleagues identified the purchase of live chicks, ducklings and goslings as the common denominator. More than 75% of interviewees reported direct contact with live poultry.

Subsequent investigation led to an as-of-yet unidentified single hatchery in the western United States which produces approximately four million birds per year. The facility, known only as Hatchery C, shipped hatchlings to retail outlets nationwide, with the vast majority of consumer purchases being made in agricultural feed stores. Most of the purchases were made around Easter and the beginning of the growing season for poultry farmers.

Of the interviewees,

  • about 40% bought the birds as pets;
  • 35% planned to raise the birds to lay eggs;
  • 22% wanted them for meat.

Once Hatchery C was identified as the likely source of the outbreak in 2006, its owners voluntarily undertook a range of quality control efforts including:

  • replacing or sealing floors and equipment;
  • changing the airflow;
  • using a quaternary ammonium egg-cleaning procedure;
  • upgrading biosecurity;
  • routinely monitoring for salmonella contamination in the facility;
  • hiring a firm to develop a vaccine against the outbreak strain.

Yet despite these extensive measures, samples collected from Hatchery C continued to show the presence of Salmonella Montevideo, and human infections linked to birds hatched at the facility continued.

According to Gaffga, the widespread outbreak shows that salmonella may be impossible to eradicate at the source, and that other hatcheries and retailers should make sure their customers understand the risk and the basics of prevention.

“High-risk groups, including children younger than 5 years of age, elderly persons, and immunocompromised persons, should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry,” Gaffga wrote.

Need More Info?

Click on the links below if you’d like additional information on these topics from Schmidt & Clark, LLP:
Salmonella Outbreaks
Food Poisoning Lawyers

Do I Have a Salmonella Food Poisoning Lawsuit?

The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in salmonella lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new food poisoning cases in all 50 states.

Free Salmonella Food Poisoning Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with salmonella food poisoning, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a salmonella food poisoning suit and we can help.

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