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Backyard Chickens Bring Salmonella Concerns

Many chickens that are sold at the local feed store come from large factory farms. (Pixabay)
Many chickens that are sold at the local feed store come from large factory farms. (Pixabay)
August 24, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Nearly a thousand people across the country have become ill this year from salmonella connected to backyard flocks of chickens, ducks and geese. The CDC is investigating ten separate salmonella outbreaks that have affected people in 48 states.

CDC Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Megin Nichols says the agency isn't discouraging backyard agriculture or the benefits of learning to interact with animals, but preventing salmonella is a critical precaution.

"There are some simple things you can do to prevent it, which are really important," She says. "So, whether you have poultry for food, eggs or as a pet, you have to be sure to wash your hands."

Other tips for people raising chickens, ducks or geese include making sure you change your shoes and clothes after cleaning their coops - and for those who keep them as pets, Nichols says birds shouldn't come into contact with people's faces.

As the trend toward organic food grows, Nichols says many people buy their own chickens because they believe they're less likely to have salmonella and other germs. But she notes many of the birds for sale at the local feed store actually come from factory farms.

"Just like the poultry in the grocery store, all live poultry can carry salmonella," she clarifies. "It's in their guts and it doesn't cause the birds to become sick. You can't tell that a bird is carrying salmonella or other germs just by looking at it."

Signs of a salmonella infection in humans include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Many who contract salmonella just feel a little sick, but it can be a deadly illness for small children, older people and those with weakened immune systems.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV