Washington and Oregon health officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonellosis

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Washington and Oregon health officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of salmonellosis related to chicks. In the past two months, more than ten people in Washington and Oregon have been infected with Salmonella after handling chicks in both states. The Washington State Department of Health is working with the Washington State Department of Agriculture and Oregon Department of Human Services on this investigation.

Healthy animals may harbor bacteria that are harmful to humans. Proper hand washing with soap and warm water after handling chicks and other animals is one way to prevent infections with Salmonella and other bacteria. Another prevention technique is to refrain from nuzzling or kissing chicks, fowl and other pets or animals.

"It is extremely important to wash your hands after handling any animals, because they could be infected with Salmonella or other bacteria," said Dr. Jo Hofmann, state epidemiologist for communicable disease. "Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems must be especially careful since they are most likely to become seriously ill if infected with Salmonella."

Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea, fever, chills and abdominal discomfort. People are most often infected by eating food or drinking water contaminated with Salmonella or by contact with infected people or animals. Animals often infected with Salmonella include turtles, iguanas, other reptiles, cattle, chicks and other poultry.

The Washington Departments of Agriculture and Health are working with hatchery operations and feed stores to identify additional ways to minimize exposure to Salmonella as well as provide hand wash notices and other reminders for the general public.

The Department of Health Web site (http://www.doh.wa.gov/) has more information on salmonellosis and provides contact information for your local health department (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LHJMap/LHJMap.htm). For information on cases in Oregon, contact Bonnie Widerburg, 503-731-4180; for technical information on the Oregon cases, contact Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., M.P.H., 503-731-4024.

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