Salmonella Outbreak Caused by Cuddling Baby Birds in New Mexico

Portales, New Mexico- Privett Hatchery pin-pointed as source for Salmonella Outbreak covering 37 states and infecting 316 people.

Salmonella Outbreak Caused by Baby Bird Snuggling in New Mexico

Yesterday health officials in New Mexico announced the discovery of the source of a Salmonella outbreak. First news of the latest Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak broke headlines in April. So far 316 people across 37 states have been affected, most of which are children including 19 cases in New Mexico. As of now, there haven’t been any fatalities, but there have been at least 51 people hospitalized. Baby poultry are seen to be the culprit.  The Salmonella outbreak seemed to have been caused by cuddling baby birds in New Mexico.

Privett Hatchery in Portales, NM came up with a sample that  shows the same Salmonella as the strain causing the outbreak. The hatchery deals with chicks, ducklings, and other live baby poultry supplying them to feed stores as well as nationwide customers through mail order.

According to The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of 40 samples taken from a pen of ducks at the Privett Hatchery showed the outbreak strain. Department of Health Secretary, Retta Ward, says in a press release, “I want to emphasize how cooperative the hatchery has been in helping to identify the source of this outbreak by working with officials from numerous agencies. Privett Hatchery was willing to conduct multiple tests.” She also reminds adults not to keep live fowl in their homes and around their children. Thorough hand washing is absolutely necessary after handling baby chicks or ducklings.

Trace-back investigations identified 18 mail-order hatcheries in many states that supplied feed stores, with most of them identifying Privett Hatchery as the source.  It was noted that customers might not know where their game comes from, as “drop shipping” is used when one hatchery may not be able to fill an order so they use another product supplier.

Since the last update on Aug 9, there have been nine more cases of infection. The CDC had earlier linked the live poultry to multiple feed stores, and today added New Mexico’s finding to the updates.

When a person contracts Salmonella, diarrhea, fever, and pain in the abdomen are early signs of infection. Headaches, chills and nausea are also side effects of the illness and symptoms develop one to three days after exposure. Infection can occurs when parents keep baby poultry inside their homes, allowing children to cuddle on them. Parents have also brought Salmonella into their homes on their hands after not properly washing unknowingly infecting their children.

The Department of Health recommends everyone to take preventative measures to ensure the outbreak goes no further. Easy steps can be taken to help prevent contracting Salmonella. Hand washing thoroughly after touching birds and things in and around their environment. Hand sanitizer can be substituted if your hands aren’t visually soiled. Children should have proper adult supervision while handling game, and not allow them to snuggle or kiss baby birds. Do not eat or touch your mouth and face around fowl and their environment. Keep equipment and materials used to interact with birds outside and for no reason bring them into the house.

New Mexico, following other state’s advisories, have announced cuddling baby birds to have been the cause of a salmonella outbreak.  The hatchery involved has since taken several steps implemented by the outbreak to control the growth and spread of the disease. Poultry that was kept containing  Salmonella was found has been removed from sale.  All of the facility’s birds will have received vaccination. Employees are also developing new strategies to control their movement between buildings to eliminate cross-contamination.  All eggs are to be decontaminated before entering the hatchery. New cleaning and disinfection protocols for the hatchery and associated equipment are also on their list of things to do.


Written by: Jodi Phillips



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