Don’t kiss your chicks: Officials blame backyard chickens for salmonella outbreak

Jul 19, 2017

Keeping backyard chickens is getting more popular in Michigan, as more communities decide to let residents maintain backyard coops.

Megan Nichols is a public health veterinarian with the Centers for Disease Control. She says keeping backyard chickens is linked to salmonella outbreaks.

“In 2017 we’ve seen 10 outbreaks with 790 people who have become sick … with salmonella, and these illnesses have happened in 48 states and the District of Columbia,” Nichols said. “It is the largest multi-state, live poultry-associated salmonella outbreak that we’ve ever seen.”

Nichols said more than a third of people sickened are children under the age of five. The effects of salmonella are worse in young children, possibly resulting in hospitalization or death.

Interviews with people who got sick led the CDC to blame backyard chickens.

“We saw a lot of people reporting exposure to backyard chickens,” Nichols said. “We’ve also actually done some testing of live poultry that are in people’s backyards, and found that they were shedding the same strains of salmonella that people got sick with.”

To prevent the spread of salmonella, thoroughly wash your hands after contact with live poultry, and dry them with a dry towel. Experts suggest keeping dedicated pair of shoes for working in or around the coop.

And Nichols says that as cute as young ducklings or chicks might be, keep them out of your house to prevent possible contamination. About 4% of people who got sick with salmonella reported “snuggling or kissing their chicks or ducklings,” which she advises against.

Listen to the entire conversation with Dr. Megan Nichols, public health veterinarian with the Centers for Disease Control, above.

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