‘Don’t kiss or snuggle’: CDC warns backyard chicken owners over salmonella cases

Closeup photograph of one day old chickens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned people with backyard poultry that their chickens may be linked to a salmonella outbreak.

“Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don’t eat or drink around them. This can spread salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick,” the CDC said in a notice Thursday.

An investigation found 163 people across 43 states were confirmed to have been sickened by the bacteria. There were no deaths, but the agency said one-third of confirmed cases were children under 5 years old. The investigation is active.

“Always supervise children around backyard poultry and make sure they wash their hands properly afterward,” the CDC said. “Don’t let children younger than 5 years touch chicks, ducklings or other backyard poultry.”

Annie, a domesticated Rhode Island red chicken, eats a newly molted periodical cicada in the front yard of her owner's home. Backyard poultry, including chickens, has been linked to a salmonella outbreak in the USA.

Salmonella symptoms include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, and the bacteria can cause infections throughout the body, according to the CDC.

Symptoms usually begin six hours to six days after infection and last four to seven days. Some people do not develop symptoms for several weeks after infection, and others may experience symptoms for several weeks. Children younger than 5, adults 65 years and older and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of hospitalization, per the CDC.

Backyard poultry was the leading cause of a nationwide salmonella outbreak in 2020 that resulted in 1,722 infections, 333 hospitalizations and one death.

“The number of illnesses reported (in 2020) was higher than the number reported during any of the past years’ outbreaks linked to backyard flocks,” the CDC wrote in December.

The agency recommends that those with backyard poultry wash their hands and consider having hand sanitizer in coops, as well as clean and refrigerate eggs.

“Rub off dirt on eggs with fine sandpaper, a brush or a cloth. Don’t wash them because colder water can pull germs into the egg,” the CDC said.

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