The CDC has issued a warning against kissing chickens. No, seriously. Don’t kiss your chickens.
Many people have taken to owning chickens in their backyard, mainly to harvest fresh eggs. However, this trend is also causing an “emerging public health trend” via increased reports of salmonella outbreaks.
Owning chickens is fine, but the problem arises from people treating these backyard farm animals as pets, and allowing them into their house and home. Chicken intestines can contain the bacteria salmonella, which is passed through feces and can be transmitted to humans through water or direct contact. Chickens allowed indoors can track the bacteria through the house, or humans can pick it up when holding, touching, handling, or kissing their chickens.
When the CDC surveyed chicken owning salmonella patients, 49% admitted to snuggling chicks, and 13% reported kissing baby birds. Nearly half (46%) of patients said that they allowed live chickens in their house, including 10% who allowed them in the bedroom.
“No word, unfortunately, on whether cuddling and kissing took place in the bedroom” the Washington Post says.
The CDC warns that hands should always be washed immediately after contact with these birds, and that poultry should never be allowed inside the house.
Some may think it would be common sense not to cuddle up to an animal that subsists on a diet of bugs and grubs, and stalks around in its own feces. However, as we talked about in class, there could be several reasons why people are susceptible to salmonella infections.
First is the individual choice not only to own chickens, but the choices to let them into the house and to interact far more closely with these animals than advised. A structural source of the issue could be lack of education; most of the owners with birds in the house reported having owned chickens for less than a year. Inexperience with appropriate husbandry practices – as well as ignorance of the link of poultry and salmonella – could have helped lead to the larger number of salmonella cases. The CDC is urging health-care workers, veterinarians, pediatricians, hatcheries, and feed stores to educate potential chicken owners about the risks involved in owning and raising chickens.