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Jonah McDonald, a 32-year-old Atlanta man who keeps three hens and insists a backyard egg tastes better, said he does not know of anyone who has gotten salmonella from handling chickens.
"The kids in my neighborhood come over and feed scraps to my chickens," he said. "It's a real community thing."
The CDC described an eight-year investigation into salmonella illnesses, with more than 80 percent of the cases tied to a single hatchery in the western U.S. While CDC officials refused to identify the business, a previous report on the investigation by the health agency indicated it is in New Mexico.
Investigators interviewed victims and concluded many had caught salmonella from touching chicks or ducklings, often at home. From there, most of the illnesses were traced to the hatchery.
Behravesh said the hatchery has taken steps to curb the spread of salmonella -- including replacing equipment, adopting new egg-cleaning procedures and vaccinating chickens -- and is not considered a health threat. She said she was not aware of any fines or penalties against the business over the outbreak.
During the eight years studied, the annual number of illnesses linked to the hatchery ranged as high as 84, with 29 cases last year and only one so far in 2012.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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