Answering your questions about Salmonella Enteritidis (SE)
Our operation employs a testing protocol that exceeds Provincial and Federal guidelines; this allowed us to respond immediately. We are commited to provide safe and quality chicks for our customers – and public health and safety is our number one concern. Below I have provided some answers to questions you may have, as well as further information from our government partners.
Salmonella Enteritidis Facts for Small Flock Owners
Q. What is Salmonella Enteritidis?
Salmonella Enteritidis or “SE” is a bacteria that can be present in live poultry and cause illness in people.
Q. How does Salmonella spread to and affect poultry?
Poultry, including chickens and turkeys, can become infected with many strains of Salmonella, including SE. Salmonella bacteria are normal intestinal flora of poultry and their presence does not usually cause any signs of illness in poultry. In general, Salmonella bacteria are transmitted from one bird to another during contact with droppings (fecal –oral route); manure piles, dead carcasses, barn dust and rodents (rats and mice) can also be important sources of Salmonella for chickens. Poultry Feed can also be a source of SE.
Q. How does Salmonella spread from chicks and poults to people?
People handling the chicks or poults can be infected with Salmonella when the bird or its droppings come in contact with a person’s mouth, eyes or nose (e.g. kissing birds, touching one’s face after handling birds or their environment). The risk can be reduced by avoiding intimate contact and thorough hand washing after handling the birds and anything the birds were in contact with such as water, feed, bedding, or housing.
Q. How does Salmonella get into eggs?
Some types of Salmonella, such as SE, can infect hens’ reproductive tracts (ovary and oviduct). From the ovary, SE can contaminate the inside of an egg before the shell is formed. These eggs will not look or taste any different than other eggs. However, humans or other animals including pets can become ill after consuming contaminated eggs that are not cooked thoroughly. SE can also enter the egg from the outside of the shell if it is cracked. If an SE infected egg is fertilized and hatched, the baby chick can be infected, and will infect others around it.
Q. What are the symptoms of salmonellosis infection in people?
A person infected with the Salmonella may experience symptoms such as: stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Symptoms start an average of 12 to 36 hours after exposure. Symptoms last 4 to 7 days and most people recover without treatment. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems may have a more severe illness.
Consult with your health care provider if you have questions about your health or feel ill, and always cook eggs and chicken thoroughly and wash your hands after handling eggs or chicken.
Q. Don't you have measures in place to prevent SE?
SE can occur in poultry and the bacteria can spread from infected hens to chicks, which in turn can infect other chicks. While broiler breeder flocks (Controlled by the Broiler Hatching Eggs Producers Board) are routinely tested for SE, the frequency of testing, is less than the monthly testing that our hatchery does with our layer breeders. Chickens can become SE positive at any time, as SE is also transmitted through feed, by vermin, bedding, people, other animals etc. so SE positive eggs can reach the hatchery, without SE being detected. However, our enhanced testing routines in the hatchery does increase the possibility of detection and removal of the associated eggs sooner than would otherwise be possible. We continue to work diligently to elevate our own biosecurity measures, and we look forward to working with government and the governing board to ensure testing measures are continuously improved and standardized.
Information Regarding Chicks That May Be Infected with SE
Q. What should I do with my chicks?
Handle all live poultry with care. The risks with Salmonella are associated with contact between the bird or its droppings and your mouth, eyes, and nose. This risk can be reduced by avoiding this type of close contact and by thoroughly washing hands after handling birds.
Meat birds: Meat birds can be finished and processed normally, paying careful attention to hygienic butchering techniques. A majority of poultry meat, including that purchased through grocery stores, will have some level of bacterial contamination. This may sometimes include SE or other bacteria that can cause disease in humans. This is why safe food handling is always important. (See further information under “What should I do with meat form my flock?”)
Layers chicks: We recommend that you take advantage of the sampling kits that are available from the provincial governments. Also sample any older layers that you may have.
Make sure that you are practicing good biosecurity. At a minimum, you should be changing boots and washing your hands between flocks (i.e., meat birds, layers, layer chicks, etc.). It is also advisable to have dedicated clothing or coveralls for each flock. For additional information about biosecurity, please review Biosecurity Best Practices: Keeping Small Flocks Healthy
Q. Why are layers of more concern?
Eggs are often consumed par-cooked or raw, so if your layers shed SE into the eggs, they could make someone sick.
Q. What should I do with the eggs from my flock?
You cannot tell which eggs are contaminated with SE. All eggs should be stored under refrigeration and prepared so that both the white and yolk are cooked thoroughly (that is, both the yolk and white are cooked “hard”, not soft or runny). Cracked and/or dirty eggs should be discarded. Always wash your hands after handling or preparing eggs.
Q. What should I do if I am selling eggs from my flock?
Please ensure your customers are aware of the risks of SE and techniques to reduce the risks. Also note that Alberta’s Purchase and Sale of Eggs and Processed Egg Regulation under the Livestock and Livestock Products Act prohibits the sale, donation or transportation of eggs to a consumer if they came from chickens that have or have been exposed to Salmonella Enteritidis.
Q. What should I do with meat from my flock?
Poultry should always be butchered using hygienic techniques to minimize the level of contamination. Information on hygienic butchering techniques is available at http://bit.ly/1cOkNSn Standard safe food preparation techniques should be used to further reduce the risk of foodborne illness. These techniques include thoroughly cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 74 - 85°C, (depending on the product), hand washing after contact with raw poultry, using only clean utensils and preparation surfaces which are cleaned after use to prevent cross-contamination of other foods. Additional information on safe food preparation can be found on the MyHealth Alberta website at http://bit.ly/1H1MZZ9.
Q. What should I do if I am selling meat from my poultry?
Standard safe food preparation techniques should be advised, as described above.
Q. In the future, how can I prevent and control SE in my flock?
The focus should be first to prevent the entry of SE into the flock, second, to prevent carry-over into the next flock, and third, to reduce the risk of contaminated eggs. The following steps will significantly reduce the risk of Salmonella contamination of the flock and eggs.
Additional Questions You May Have
Q. Will SE make my birds sick?
SE rarely causes disease in poultry and there has been no evidence to suggest any of the infected chicks have been sick. The concern regarding SE is its potential to cause disease in people.
Q. My chicks look great. Does that mean they are not infected?
Because SE rarely causes disease in poultry, infected chicks may appear completely normal.
Q. Can I treat my birds to eliminate the SE?
In practice, no. They would either not get rid of it completely, or get reinfected from their environment.
Q. Will this affect my future birds?
No, not if you wait until you have no more birds on the property and clean and disinfect properly before getting new birds.
Q. Will affected birds infect all birds on my farm, such as my older chickens in another coop?
This depends on how you house your birds, whether you allow them to comingle, and other biosecurity considerations. At a minimum, you should be changing boots and washing your hands between flocks (i.e., meat birds, layers, layer chicks, etc.). It is also advisable to have dedicated clothing or coveralls for each flock. For additional information about biosecurity, please review Biosecurity Best Practices: Keeping Small Flocks Healthy
Q. Will affected birds infect neighboring farms?
SE and other germs can be carried to other properties on dirty clothing/boots, vehicles, and equipment, so good biosecurity is important. There are also potential sources of SE other than chicks, including feed, straw, and hay. It can also be spread by mice, rats, and flies.