Backyard chicken and duck coops have become a popular trend in cities around the country. Many families like the idea of being able to walk out the backdoor and collect fresh eggs for meals. Plus, kids are drawn to the cute baby chicks and are often eager to make them the new family pet. That’s where things can get tricky.
Close contact with even the cleanest and healthiest-looking chicken can make you sick, and there's proof this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On Thursday, the CDC announced that it is working with states to investigate eight multistate outbreaks of salmonella connected to these kinds of backyard birds.
"A lot of people perceive a bird with salmonella will look sick, but that is really not the case," said Megin Nichols, a CDC veterinarian. The birds carry the bacteria on their feathers, on their feet and in their droppings.
At least 372 people were infected with salmonella from January 4th to May 3rd, 2017, according to the government agency. These cases were linked to pet ducks, chickens and geese. The CDC noted that this number was most likely less than the actual amount of cases. Typically, for every known infection, there are 29 other people who probably got sick.
Of the 372 cases, 36% were children. No one has died from the infection, but 71 of those infections were so bad the people had to be hospitalized.
The salmonella bacteria can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever.
The increase in cases set an all time high record in 2016, with 895 people getting sick after interacting with birds. By comparison, over the prior 26 years, there had been only 65 poultry-related outbreaks recorded.
If you’re considering participating in this trend or already have a chicken coop, be sure and make sure you and family members are aware of how to safely raise birds. The CDC offers some information to help you master a few best practices, and so does the US Department of Agriculture on its Biosecurity for Birds page.
A few tips to lessen the chance of getting salmonella are:
- Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after you touch the birds or their equipment. Food and water bowls can be contaminated with the bacteria, too.
- Keep the birds outside so they don't track bacteria into your home.
- If you have kids, especially little ones under 5, watch how they interact with the animals. Children are particularly susceptible to the infection, as they often put their hands in their mouths. Be sure to teach them how to handle the animals.
- If you collet eggs, make sure they are cooked thoroughly before eating them.
Story source: Jen Christensen, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/02/health/salmonella-chickens/index.html