Canadian health officials are collaborating o an investigation of a Salmonella outbreak that has affected dozens of people in three provinces. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada investigation, currently there are 34 cases of human illness under investigation in three provinces: Alberta (17), British Columbia (13), and Saskatchewan (4).

Image/Jean Gagnon
Image/Jean Gagnon

Individuals became sick between April 5 and May 12, 2015. These cases have all reported contact with live baby poultry. Most cases have reported contact with live baby poultry from a hatchery in Alberta.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is leading the animal health investigation and is working closely with the hatchery to determine the source of the infected live baby poultry. The hatchery is distributing information letters about this outbreak directly to its customers who have placed orders for live baby poultry beginning March 1, 2015.

Although health officials say the risk to Canadians is low, they remind the public that contact with live poultry can be a source of Salmonella, even if a bird appears healthy and clean. You can get Salmonella from a bird, its droppings or from environments where birds have been. Proper hand washing is the key to protecting yourself from illness. Always wash your hands immediately after handling birds, cleaning up after them or being in an area where birds have been.

In addition, Canadians who are particularly at risk for infection with salmonellosis include babies, children five years of age and under, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weaker immune systems. Young children are at higher risk of infection because they often enjoy handling and interacting with live baby poultry and may not wash their hands before putting their fingers or other contaminated items in or near their mouths. If infected, young children are also at increased risk for serious illness because their immune systems are still developing.