Date: May 29, 2020
Contact: Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936, (406) 461-3757
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391, (406) 461-8367

State officials encourage safe

handling of live poultry

Raising backyard poultry has become an increasingly popular activity in Montana. Spring is a common season to purchase and begin raising young birds, and there are many feed stores in Montana that sell chicks and ducks.

While there are benefits to raising poultry, there are also associated health risks. Poultry can carry and shed bacteria such as Salmonella without showing any signs of disease. Salmonella can cause illness in humans and can be spread while handling live poultry or objects in their environment. Montana has already investigated multiple cases of salmonellosis this year among people who had contact to chicks before they became ill.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the Department of Livestock (DOL) encourage safe handling of live poultry to prevent potential human illness using these simple prevention methods:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling animals
  • Avoid touching your mouth after animal contact
  • Don’t eat or drink around animals
  • Avoid kissing or snuggling your birds
  • Keep chicks and ducks outside of the home
  • Supervise small children around animals

Year to date in 2020, there have been 36 cases of salmonellosis reported in Montana. Of those, 31% have had contact to live poultry in the days before becoming ill, which is a higher proportion of salmonellosis cases linked to contact with live poultry then normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonellosis cases linked to contact with live poultry. Montana has six cases that are confirmed to be part of this outbreak.

“Even if animals appear healthy and clean, they can still transmit disease to people,” said Rachel Hinnenkamp, epidemiologist for the DPHHS Public Health and Safety Division.

Children under five and people with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic disease, are at the highest risk for infection and should avoid handling live poultry.

“When caring for backyard flocks, these prevention methods will help keep you and your families healthy and enjoying the benefits of raising animals,” said DOL Program Veterinarian Dr. Anna Forseth. “While using proper safety precautions, raising your own backyard poultry can be a fun and safe experience.”

Please visit www.dphhs.mt.gov for guidance and more information.

Baby Chickens


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