As egg prices soared and pandemic isolation grew, many Americans moved from co-op to coop and became chicken owners. But people with chickens in their backyards should think twice about giving them a peck.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people to refrain from snuggling with backyard poultry, citing concerns that the chickens may be spreading salmonella.
The CDC warned that backyard poultry owners should take special precautions when handling their animals after 163 confirmed cases of salmonella were reported in 43 states. "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 public health agency said.
It's not the first time the CDC has had to remind bird lovers to love from a distance, but the growing numbers of owners do make it a bigger concern.
Children under 5 made up a third of the cases that have been recorded. But additional cases may have gone unreported since most people don't seek testing for the bacterial infection that can cause fever, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Besides refraining from kissing chickens, the CDC also has this advice for backyard poultry owners:
- Frequently wash your hands after handling poultry.
- Keep the animals and supplies outside your house to prevent spreading germs inside.
- Be careful when handling eggs.
- Don't let kids younger than 5 touch chicks, ducklings or other backyard poultry. "Young children are more likely to get sick from germs like Salmonella," the agency says.
"Backyard poultry can carry Salmonella germs even if they look healthy and clean," the CDC adds. "These germs can easily spread in areas where they live and roam."