Backyard chickens and human health risk

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Keeping chickens in the backyard has become more popular in recent years, but there’s a downside. Many states are reporting salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard flocks, health officials said this week, and they’re calling for owners to take steps to reduce infection risk.

So far this year, 47 states have reported cases of human salmonella connected with backyard flocks, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said this week, including 372 people infected. A little over a third of those who became ill were children under age 5. Seventy-one people have been hospitalized.

The symptoms of Salmonella infection include nausea and vomiting, blood in the stool, fever, chills and abdominal pain.

Chicks and ducks may appear clean to the human eye, but they can still carry salmonella. Here are other ways flock owners can avoid getting sick:

• Always wash hands well with soap and water after handling feathered pets, and keep hands away from the face.
• Don’t let live poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food is served.
• Don’t let kids under 5 handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry without adult supervision.
• Toss eggs that look dirty or cracked. Don’t rinse them with cold water.
• Refrigerate the eggs after you take them from the coop.
• Cook eggs well.

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