The CDC is singing a familiar song: stop snuggling, kissing, or otherwise being physically affectionate with chickens. The message has been preached many times in the past, each in reference to outbreaks of Salmonella, a bacterial disease most commonly acquired through contaminated water or food. Salmonella is common among chickens, as well, and that’s a problem for backyard farmers.
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new alert involving yet another outbreak of Salmonella linked to ‘backyard chickens,’ which refers to the practice of keeping one’s chickens in a residential yard. Salmonella can also be passed from chicks and ducklings, as well.
This latest outbreak spans 28 states and a total of 97 people, around a third of whom are below the age of 5. Though there haven’t been any reports of deaths associated with this outbreak, a total of 17 people had been hospitalized at the time of the CDC’s alert.
Symptoms of the disease may appear up to six days after exposure; they can include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever. Poultry, including ducks and chickens, can appear totally healthy and still carry the bacteria that causes Salmonella infections.
The CDC advises backyard farmers to keep their birds in sanitary conditions and to adopt certain practices that help protect against illness, including avoiding kissing or otherwise snuggling with the birds — something that also applies to pet turtles, it has noted in the past.
Kids under the age of five should likewise be kept away from the birds and their environments due to the severity with which they can develop the disease, according to the CDC. The agency notes that you should thoroughly wash your hands after touching poultry or their environment and that you should keep a separate set of shoes for walking in their habitat.