WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — If you’re really loving your backyard chickens and all those fresh eggs, you might be giving your flock a little bit of extra attention — and some snuggles and kisses.
Well, you had better stop, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning.
You might be putting yourself at risk for a salmonella infection, the department said, and you wouldn’t be alone.
There is currently a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections linked to people touching backyard poultry, the CDC said on Monday.
As of July 13, 212 people in 44 states had been infected with the outbreak strains of salmonella, the department said in an outbreak advisory. The illnesses all began between Feb. 15 and June 21 of this year.
Of those infected, 34 people have been hospitalized and 26 percent are children younger than 5 years old. No deaths have been reported, the CDC said.
North Carolina, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Florida, Minnesota and Michigan have all had at least 10 people who were infected. Many of the other states with multiple people affected are in the Midwest and Southern regions, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Iowa, The Wichita Eagle reported.
Of those sick, 72 percent of people told the CDC that they had contact with chicks or ducklings in the week before their illnesses started.
The CDC saw a record-high number of illnesses linked to backyard poultry in 2017 — 1,120 people in 48 states were infected as of Oct. 19, 2017. One person died.
“As raising backyard flocks becomes more popular, more people are having contact with chickens and ducks — and may not know about the risk of salmonella infection,” the CDC said in last year’s outbreak summary.
The investigation of the 2018 outbreak is ongoing, but the CDC has advised to “always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water” after handling or being near poultry and their equipment — even if you didn’t touch the birds. The agency also said to not let children under 5 to handle or touch chicks, ducklings and other live poultry without supervision.
“Children younger than 5 years of age are more likely to get sick from exposure to germs like salmonella.”
Do not let live poultry in the house or where you keep food and drinks, the CDC said. The agency also advised to change shoes after taking care of your backyard flock
“Don’t snuggle, kiss, or touch your mouth to live baby poultry.”
Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, the CDC said. Each year in the U.S., about 1.2 million people are infected and 450 die from salmonella. Food is the source of about 1 million salmonella illnesses and 380 deaths each year.