CDC warns people to stop kissing backyard chickens as salmonella outbreaks rise

CDC warns people to stop kissing backyard chickens as salmonella outbreaks rise

Don’t do this at home … or anywhere, really.

Backyard chickens are increasing in popularity but owners are loving their poultry a little too much, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. For the past few years, the CDC has warned Americans to stop kissing and cuddling their chickens due to salmonella infection risk. Atlas Obscura explains why:

Last year, 23 percent of the people who reported contracting salmonella from homegrown fowl had recently kissed their chickens (seven percent) or snuggled them (16 percent).

Those stats come from Dr. Megin Nichols, who investigates salmonella and E. coli outbreaks at the CDC. Chicken petting and snuggling, it turns out, are high-risk behaviors. While salmonella tends to be associated with industrial food systems, even backyard chicken coops have the potential to be contaminated, Nichols explains.

Nichols suspects that the increase in backyard chicken ownership is contributing to contamination rates as new, inexperienced owners may not be fully aware of the risks.

According to Nichols, people new to owning chickens might not be aware of the hazards of cuddling. Last year had the highest number of salmonella cases from poultry ownership yet, with more than a thousand people reporting getting sick across 48 states and the District of Columbia. Plus, Nichols says, the CDC estimates that only one in 30 cases of salmonella are reported, meaning the problem is much larger.

Spread the word. Friends don’t let friends hug and kiss chickens.

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