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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning those with backyard poultry that their chickens may be linked to a growing 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 sent out Thursday.

The notice comes out after an investigation found 163 people across 43 states were confirmed to have been sickened by the bacteria. Despite there being no deaths, the agency says one-third of confirmed cases were children under 5 years old. The investigation is still 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.”

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Annie, a domesticated Rhode Island red chicken, eats a newly molted periodical cicada in the front yard of her owner's home. Backyard poultry, like chickens, have been linked to a salmonella outbreaking occurring in the United States.

Salmonella is bacteria that make people sick, with symptoms like diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, but can also 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. However, 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.

The notice comes after backyard poultry was found to be the leading cause for 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 agency wrote in December.

Other than supervising children, the agency recommends 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.

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.

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