Sorry to Ruffle Any Feathers, but Backyard Chickens Can Pose a Serious Health Risk
Luckily, it's easy to stay safe.
For many households, raising chickens is a convenient way to save money. Heck, sometimes they're even cute. But after a recent multi-state salmonella outbreak due to poultry—the 10th in the United States since 2001—the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued yet another reminder to be extra vigilant when it comes to raising chickens.
On Monday the agency reported that 212 people across 44 states have gotten sick with salmonella due to poultry since February. Dr. Megin Nichols, a CDC veterinarian, told CNN that trendiness of having your own chicken coop has probably contributed to the rise in salmonella cases. Many people, she noted, do not realize that chickens carry the bacteria on their feathers, on their feet and in their droppings.
According to the CDC, symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. They begin 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected and can last about four to seven days. Though most individuals recover without treatment, 34 people have been hospitalized as a result of this latest outbreak.
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So, what's an aspiring chicken owner to do?
"Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in their environment," the CDC said in its latest reminder this week.
Another CDC tip for staying healthy with a backyard flock? "Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of your birds and keep the shoes outside of your home." And always wash eggs well before use and cook them thoroughly before eating.
Most importantly, before committing to keeping chickens, Nichols suggests reading up on how to care for them. As CNN points out, the CDC offers some advice on best practices, as does the US Department of Agriculture on its Biosecurity for Birds page.