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CDC warns against snuggling chickens or ducks, bringing poultry inside home

Photo credit: USDA, Creative Commons image by Alice Popkorn

July 10, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Across the nation, people have flocked to owning backyard chickens and other poultry.  But now the Centers for Disease Control  has issued a warning not to cozy up to your backyard birds.  That’s because four separate Salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard flocks have sickened 181 people in 40 states, including several cases  in California.

In  one outbreak, CDC conducted interviews and found that 86% of the ill people had conducted with chiceks, chickens, ducks or ducklings before falling ill. Moreover, the CDC reports, “Many ill people in these outbreaks reported bringing the live poultry into their homes, and others reported kissing or cuddling with the live poultry. These behaviors increase a person’s risk of a Salmonella infection.”

Who knew that chicken snuggling was so popular?

It turns out that November 5th  is “hug a chicken day” according to

But the CDC warns that’s not a good idea.  In its recently issued “Advice to Backyard Flock Owners”, the CDC  warns that “contact with live poultry and their environment can make people sick with Salmonella infections. Live poultry can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness.”

The CDC offers these  tips for protecting yourself and others while enjoying backyard poultry:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching live poultry or anything where they live and roam, or use a hand sanitizer. Supervisor hand washing for children.
  • Don’t let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.
  • Children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry. People in these groups are more likely to have a severe illness from Salmonella infection.
  • Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry.
  • Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment or materials used to raise or care for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers.

These recommendations are important and apply to all live poultry regardless of the age of the birds or where they were purchased, the CDC advises.  The infected birds came from at least 17 different hatcheries.

The CDC also has guidelines for mail-order hatcheries and feed stores that sell or display live produce, including providing information and displaying posters to alert buyers about Salmonella risks, displaying poultry out of reach of customers, especially children, and cleaning areas where birds are displayed in between shipments.

Salmonella symptoms and facts:

Most people infected with Salmonella develop the following signs and symptoms 12-72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps
  • The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
  • In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body.
  • In rare cases, Salmonella infection can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

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