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'Don't kiss or snuggle backyard poultry,' CDC warns in salmonella alert

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that backyard farmers should practice increased hygiene as salmonella cases have been reported in 43 states.
A domestic chicken pecks for food scraps on a car parked outside a home near Roseburg. Ore., on Nov. 16, 2012.
A chicken pecks for food scraps near Roseburg. Ore.Robin Loznak / for NBC News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning backyard poultry farmers that their chickens may be linked to a growing salmonella outbreak.

The notice of investigation, posted Thursday, said 163 people are confirmed to have been sickened across 43 states.

While none have died, a third of those sickened were children under 5 years of age, the agency said.

The CDC warns that there are likely many more cases as few people are tested for salmonella, a bacterial infection that in most people resolves on its own in a week or less after causing diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

People younger than 5 or older than 65 are likelier to experience more severe illness and are at increased risk of hospitalization, the CDC says.

Safety tips shared by the public health agency include having hand sanitizer near your coop and frequently washing hands after touching poultry.

"Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don’t eat or drink around them," the CDC writes. "This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick."

The agency said children are more likely to get sick from salmonella, and advised supervising them around flocks, and preventing children under 5 years of age from touching the birds.

The news follows what was a bad year for salmonella safety in America's backyard poultry farms, according to the CDC.

There were 17 multistate salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard flock contact in all 50 states in 2020, the agency said.

"The number of illnesses reported [in 2020] was higher than the number reported during any of the past years’ outbreaks linked to backyard flocks," the CDC wrote.

Salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard poultry flocks were reported every year from 2020 back to 2017.