There has been a rise in popularity in keeping backyard poultry during the COVID-19 pandemic (Photo: J.T. Dale)

July 2, 2020

Queensland Health is investigating an outbreak of salmonella infections among young children linked to contact with backyard poultry.

Communicable Diseases Branch spokesperson Dr Alun Richards said as at June 26 there had been 17 cases of Salmonella typhimurium infection reported across the State.

Thirteen of these were in children aged 11 years or younger.

Five children had to be treated in hospital for their illness.

A majority of cases reported handling chicks that were purchased in the two weeks prior to their illness.

The chicks had been obtained from a range of produce and pet stores in Queensland.

Dr Richards said an investigation into the supplier of chicks to these stores was ongoing.

He warned that backyard poultry can harbour and shed salmonella that cause illness in humans, even though the birds are healthy and clean.

The outbreak follows a surge in poultry popularity during COVID-19 isolation.

The ABC reported in March chicken breeders were being inundated with requests as more families turned to backyard chooks for egg supplies.

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The public health advice for owners of backyard poultry include:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and running water immediately after touching backyard poultry, their eggs, their enclosures, or anything in the area where they live and roam
  • Use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not readily available
  • Adults should always supervise children around poultry and ensure they wash their hands afterwards
  • Do not let children snuggle or kiss the birds, touch their mouth, or eat or drink around poultry
  • Do not let poultry inside the house

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps six  to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria.

The illness usually lasts four to seven days and most people recover without treatment.

Children younger than five years, adults aged 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems may develop a more severe illness.

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