Rural residents in and around Portales, New Mexico, are wondering what might happen next.

The community, still reeling after a salmonella outbreak at the Sunland Peanut plant last year resulted in many local workers temporary losing their jobs, is now facing what seems to be round two of ill fortune, namely, 316 new salmonella cases nationwide that have been linked back to Privett Hatchery in Portales.

As of last week, salmonella cases in 37 states had been linked back to poultry from the chicken, duck and turkey hatchery in the eastern part of the state. Colorado reported the greatest number of cases with 37; Texas followed with 32. Nebraska, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, and Utah all reported double digit numbers of confirmed cases.

Nearly 51 people have been hospitalized so far nationwide. Nearly 60 percent of all cases involved children. The Salmonella infections have been linked to contact with chicks, ducklings, and other live baby poultry.

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One local official, who offered his thoughts only if he could remain unidentified, said regardless the outcome of the ongoing investigation into this latest outbreak, the community has already taken a second hit linked back to the city. He points to the closing of the peanut plant and the negative local economic impact of that incident over the last year and says he fears what another round of cloudy economic times could mean to local businesses and residents.

He also said, in contrast, he was confident the city has a strong heart and spirit and he expects they will survive this incident regardless of their problems. 

Portales is a city of about 13,000 and is the county seat of Roosevelt County, New Mexico. The area is noted for its agriculture production, especially for high quality alfalfa and a growing number of dairies. Portales is also one of the largest producers of Valencia peanuts in the United States and is the nation's top producer of Certified Organic peanut butter.

So far, federal investigators have said that over the last several months researchers discovered a number of salmonella strains that shared a DNA fingerprint and a common thread. It appears tests on a number of individuals exposed to the sickness recently indicated the bacterium associated with the strain was spread by baby poultry that had been sold at multiple feed stores around the country, and the young poultry had originated from Privett Hatchery in Portales.