Kissing Chickens Can Spread Salmonella, CDC Warns

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told you before and it’s telling you again ― kissing chickens can lead to contracting salmonella.

The CDC reported in a study released Wednesday that the increased popularity of backyard poultry flocks has coincided with an uptick in salmonella outbreaks associated with live poultry. To figure out the causes of live-poultry associated salmonella, or LPAS, the CDC looked at cases that occurred between 1990 and 2014 and found that some people affected were engaging in risky behaviors ― including cuddling, kissing and, in some cases, letting their chickens roam in their bedrooms and bathrooms.

LPAS affected more than 180 people in 2015 and there were about 150 cases reported during a six-month period in 2012, the year the CDC says such outbreaks peaked.

Of the CDC’s sample incidents, 62 percent of patients reported exposure to baby poultry, which includes chicks and ducklings. Of that 62 percent:

  • 49 percent reported cuddling with baby poultry.

  • 46 percent reported letting them in their their living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.

  • 13 percent reported kissing baby poultry.

Overall, the CDC concluded, “Poultry are acquiring a new position in many households. Instead of being treated as production animals, they are increasingly being considered household pets.” They should never be allowed in the home, it pointed out.

The Humane Society of the United States says it supports “measures that reduce animal suffering,” and suggest that owners who have backyard hens could reduce or eliminate their purchasing of eggs laid by hens in sub-par circumstances. But the organization also lays out clear guidelines for caring for and housing backyard chickens, and those directions do not include letting them in your home or cuddling them at night. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also provides clear instructions for creating safe environments for pet chickens.

And remember, even if your backyard chicken, duck or turkey looks clean, it still carries bacteria and can shed salmonella intermittently. So be sure to wash your hands any time you come into contact with live poultry.

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