Queensland Health is investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections across the state.
As of June, 26 there had been 17 reported cases with the outbreaks predominantly affecting young children which have been linked back to contact with backyard poultry.
Thirteen of the cases were in children aged 11 years or younger with five children hospitalised for their illness.
The large majority of cases have reported handling chicks that were purchased in the two-week period prior to their illness. The chicks had been obtained from produce and pet stores in Queensland.
Co-owner of Stockman’s eggs Scott Stockman says that common sense must prevail when handling chickens and eggs. “The best way to prevent salmonella poisoning is to wash your hands, it’s also important to cook your eggs and not have raw egg products,” he said
“Raw eggs that go into things like homemade mayonnaise, tiramisu, raw egg smoothies etc. Eggs that haven’t been refrigerated or handled correctly can also cause salmonella outbreaks.
“People should make sure that eggs are not cracked and if there is manure on the egg, then wash the egg properly.”
Stockman’s have over 60,000 chickens on their Kairi farm producing about 55,000 eggs per day and Scott said they’ve never had a salmonella sickness on his farm due to strict bio-security measures and a salmonella control program in place.
“Our farm is fully quarantined, our staff change their shoes on entering and leaving the farm. We have footbaths between all the sheds, we wash our eggs at 45 degrees as per safe food regulations and the eggs pass over a candler to make sure there are no cracked eggs and then they are treated by ultraviolet light to kill all bacteria in the shell,” he said
“All of our birds are vaccinated for salmonella which is something most backyard breeders don’t do.
“We also recommend that consumers keep their eggs refrigerated at all times.”
It believed that since the outbreak of COVID-19 there has been a huge increase in backyard production which has added to the increase of Salmonella cases.
According to Queensland health backyard poultry can harbour and shed salmonella that causes illness in humans, even though the birds are healthy and clean.
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.
Adults should always supervise children around poultry and ensure they use hand sanitiser or wash their hands after handling chickens or any animals.
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 6 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria.
The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days and most people recover without treatment. Children younger than 5 years, adults 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems or long term sicknesses may develop a more severe illness.