Don't snuggle with your backyard chickens, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; doing so may get you sick with salmonella.
There are tons of benefits to having backyard chickens. You have a steady supply of eggs, chickens can help to cut down on the weeds and bugs, and it's like having a bit of a farm right in your backyard. There are even programs that allow you to rent chickens for a season if you're not sure that full-time ownership is right for you.
But there's one disadvantage to chicken ownership that many people overlook: The potential for salmonella.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have already been eight separate salmonella outbreaks linked to pet poultry in 2017 alone. The outbreaks sickened more than 370 people in 47 different states. 71 people were hospitalized.
No one has yet died in 2017, but in 2016, of the 895 people who contracted salmonella, three didn't survive.
The salmonella bacteria causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever, and diarrhea.
Health officials with the CDC are warning chicken owners not to get too close to their feathered friends and to practice good hygiene. During last year's outbreak, a study revealed that almost half of the salmonella patients, including young children, had "snuggled" with chicks, and even allowed the chickens in their homes.
It's never a good idea to let live poultry in your home, since it is all to easy for germs to be transferred during food preparation. If you're worried about keeping young chicks warm, set them up with a chick pen and a heat lamp in the chicken coop. And remember, even though backyard flocks may appear perfectly healthy, they can still carry salmonella.
Additionally, the CDC health department recommends practicing hand washing and hand sanitizing after you touch your backyard poultry or fresh eggs. Don't wash the eggs - cold water can push germs back inside the eggs, potentially getting you sick if you eat them. Instead, just wipe the eggs off. Food safety is key to stop salmonella infections from spreading.
So, enjoy your backyard chickens, but lay off the snuggling for your health.
How do you protect yourself from getting salmonella or any other foodborne illness from your chickens?
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