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Salmonella Cases Linked To Contact With Backyard Chickens

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 21 cases of salmonella in California. They've been linked to contact with backyard chickens and health officials are warning chicken owners to be more cautious with their animals.

"They're so cute, sometimes I cuddle them because chicks are really cute," said Sophia Escobar, who lives in Davis. "I might not cuddle them as much as I used to."

Reports of salmonella outbreaks started earlier this year and have now spread to 47 states. A total of 372 cases have been reported between January and May. Twenty-one are in California.

The CDC believes the cases are linked to contact with live poultry like chicks and ducklings.

"It kind of kicked me into gear to take better steps in order to prepare for any, you know, infestations, bacteria, mites, you know, anything that could affect the chicken or anyone else around them," said Drayke Gegunde, who lives in Davis.

Gegunde has been raising chickens for 17 years and is very protective of his small flock of three.

"One of them is named Pepe, the other one's name is Charcoal and the other one's name is Snow White," Gegunde said. "I actually let them sleep inside with me in my bed."

But Dr. Maurice Pitesky with UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine says you should never let chickens inside of your house. His reason: always assume that any bird is a salmonella carrier.

Morgan Dolph works at Western Feed Pet Supply Store in Davis, where the baby chicks have been flying off the shelves.

"We've been selling them since February and we sell out pretty quickly every week," Dolph said.

But before they leave the store, Dolph makes sure she gives first-time chicken owners a little advice on staying sanitary with their new birds at home.

"We just tell them to keep clean and wash your hands and be careful with children," she said. "You don't want them, putting their mouths up to them. You might get sick that way."

In fact, according to the CDC, 36 percent of ill people in this outbreak are under the age of 5.

Gegunde recommends washing your chickens often and replacing their nests every few weeks you want to keep your bird happy and healthy.

"Yeah, I love my chickens!" Gegunde said.

Additional CDC tips to prevent the spread of salmonella include:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry.
  • Don't let live poultry inside the house, especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
  • Don't let children younger than 5 years, adults older than 65, or people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or organ transplants, handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
  • Don't eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Avoid kissing your birds or snuggling them, then touching your mouth.
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