One person has died and 86 have been put into the hospital in the latest outbreak of salmonella connected to pet poultry, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Wednesday.
The CDC says 368 people have reported getting sick since May 20, bringing this year’s total to 465 poultry-related salmonella cases reported in 42 states. That’s about twice as many as were reported at the same time last year, the CDC said.
The CDC says 86 people have been hospitalized. One person in Oklahoma has died from the infection. About a third of those who have gotten sick are young children under the age of 5.
Backyard flocks have become an increasingly popular hobby. People often say they want to raise the birds because they have an interest in knowing where their food comes from, but it’s also about more than just fresh eggs. People say they like the companionship the birds provide, much like a cat or dog would.
Media reports at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic showed that hatcheries nationwide saw a spike in orders for the birds.
The hobby can be fun and educational, but families have to be aware of how to safely manage the animals, according to the CDC. It’s a little different than raising a dog or cat.
The CDC sends out regular warnings about the salmonella risks from backyard flocks. There have been more than a dozen outbreaks of illness connected to live poultry since 2011, according to the agency.
Chickens and other poultry carry salmonella in their digestive tracks. The harmful bacteria gets into their droppings and onto their eggs and feathers. While it doesn’t bother the chicken, it can give people stomach cramps, diarrhea, and other, sometimes serious, symptoms.
The CDC says its best that children don’t touch live poultry since children are more likely to get a severe infection. They also suggest people who keep backyard flocks wear a separate pair of shoes to care for the birds and to be sure to take them off before going back into the house. Good hand hygiene is also essential.
Chickens should be outside animals only and while they may be cute, the CDC says, please “don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry.”