The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a surge in human Salmonella infections linked to contact with live backyard poultry, reported Macy Jenkins on CBS Sacramento News.
The story included interviews with several chicken owners. One small girl said she loves to cuddle her chickens because "They're so cute." The owner of three specialty chickens said he allows the animals to "sleep inside with me in my bed." Both of those practices run counter to guidelines set by the CDC.
Jenkins spoke to UC Cooperative Extension specialist Maurice Pitesky, who said poultry owners should never let the birds inside of the house. His reason: "Always assume that any bird is a Salmonella carrier."
To prevent Salmonella infection, the CDC recommends:
- Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry and anything in the area where the live and roam.
- Never allow poultry in the house, especially not in bathrooms and kitchen.
- Do not snuggle or kiss the birds.
- Stay outdoors when cleaning poultry equipment, such as cages, feed or water containers.
The most common symptoms of Salmonella infection are diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. The illness usually last 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment.
The story was centered in Hayward, a community that is the latest to deal with local interest in very small-scale poultry husbandry. San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco do not require a permit or fee. Some communities require permits to slaughter animals for food. In Palo Alto, chicken permits are $60.
"It's part of a general trend toward local food," said Pitesky, who is a UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based at UC Davis. "People read things in the media and feel they might be able to have more control and safer food if they're growing it themselves. It's a growing trend in urban areas, and poultry are relatively easy type of food animal to raise."
The article provided a link to the UC Cooperative Extension Poultry website, which includes information for backyard poultry, small-scale production and commercial production.
"And they're not, for the most part, affected by the disease, but they can be carriers of it," Pitesky said. "It means we're euthanizing those flocks that are affected."
The story said 40 million laying hens, one-eighth of the country's laying population, had to be euthanized, dramatically reducing the egg supply. Turkeys are still more susceptible to the condition.
“Turkey prices are going up also, and we're still not sure how that will affect turkey prices around Thanksgiving," Pitesky said.
California chickens haven't been hit by bird flu, but they are producing fewer eggs because new laws went into effect this year requiring more room for hens to move around, reducing some farms' capacity.