CDC: Backyard Chickens Mean Salmonella Outbreaks, So Wash Your Hands

Image courtesy of PepOmint

In the last decade or so, raising backyard chickens has become a popular hobby. Maybe it’s due to a receession-era homesteading impulse, or people prioritizing really local food. However, live chickens and ducks have been linked to almost 1,000 known cases of Salmonella, which have sent hundreds of people to the hospital and killed one person. About one-third of those cases were in children under age 5.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been able to trace most of these cases of backyard bird bacteria to their sources, and found that 75% of people interviewed had some kind of contact with live poultry before getting sick.

The problem is that chickens can carry Salmonella strains that make humans ill, but the birds don’t get sick at all.

Among the CDC’s recommendations are that people with pet chickens not let their flocks hang out in the house, especially in the kitchen, dining areas, or the bathroom. Yes, even if your hens are really cool pets. It also recommends that flock owners and people visiting with chickens:

Wash your hands after handling poultry, or after handling clothes that you wore when working with poultry. Hand sanitizer is a good temporary option if you can’t get to a place with soap and water right away.
Avoid snuggling and smooching any birds, no matter how cute those fuzzy freshly hatched chicks might be.
Collect eggs as often as possible, discarding any that are cracked. Don’t wash eggs, but be sure to refrigerate them.
When possible, keep children under age 5, adults over age 65, and people with weakened or compromised immune systems due to illness or medical treatment (like chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs) from handling any birds due to the risk of Salmonella.

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