Nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to Portales

Staff and wire report

Portales is at the center of another national salmonella outbreak after state health officials said Monday a Portales hatchery was linked to a strain of salmonella that has sickened hundreds across the country.

The Department of Health said the strain of salmonella that has infected more than 300 people in 37 states was found in a duck pen at Privett Hatchery on East Spruce in Portales, according to the department’s press release. Nineteen of those cases were reported in New Mexico.

The investigation has linked this outbreak to contact with chicks, ducklings, and other live baby poultry purchased from multiple feed stores.

Privett Hatchery supplies baby chicks, ducklings and other live baby poultry to feed stores and mail order customers nationwide. The owner of Privett Hatchery, Jimmy Privett, was not available for comment Monday evening but the hatchery issued a statement on its website.

“Privett Hatchery, Inc. shares the concerns of the public in regard to recent reports of illnesses. We are working with authorities at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they continue their investigation into salmonella outbreaks, some of which may be linked to our hatchery,” the statement said. “Our top priority is providing safe, healthy poultry to our customers. We will continue to work with our suppliers to ensure we can do so.”

The press release said 60 percent of the cases are children age 10 or younger and no deaths have been reported but at least 51 people have been hospitalized.

According to the hatchery’s statement, expanded biosecurity precautions and ongoing counsel from an outside expert are included in its focus on disease prevention and the reduction of risks of salmonella in its flocks.

“As always, we will focus on our responsibility to educate consumers on proper care and handling of the birds,” the statement said.

State Public Health Veterinarian Paul Ettestad says the hatchery is most likely the source of the outbreak. But he says questions remain because federal officials have found that the people sickened with salmonella bought baby poultry at 113 feed store locations that were supplied by 18 mail order hatcheries in several states.

“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,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward. “The Department wants to remind parents not to keep live baby poultry in their homes. Any time anyone handles baby ducklings or chicks, they need to wash their hands thoroughly to reduce the risk of contracting Salmonella.”

This is the second national salmonella outbreak connected to a Portales-based company within a year. Sunland Inc., the nation’s largest organic peanut butter processor, had its products linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in 20 states last fall.

The company temporarily shut down its factory, revamped its sanitation process and completed test production runs in April to reopen its plant. The company’s President Jimmie Shearer said in July he expected to have Sunland’s products back on shelves nationwide in a few months.

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