If your snuggle-buddy is a winged, feathered, egg-laying creature (i.e. a chicken), we've got some bad news for you: you're going to have to keep your hands to yourself, starting now.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poultry owners are cozying up to their chickens, ducks, and other winged animals, and their intimacy has caused eight salmonella outbreaks in at least 47 states. In fact, since January, 372 cases of salmonella have been reported—and 71 people have been hospitalized.
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The infections have been linked to "contact with live poultry in backyard flocks," reports the CDC, which is also advising poultry owners to "not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry." Who knew people did this? Yet, of those infected since January, about half copped to cuddling with a baby bird. They're so fluffy, that makes a lot of sense.
Even the healthiest-looking birds can carry salmonella bacteria and a bevy of other gross germs, the CDC says. So any kind of contact with them should be cautious. "Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry, or anything in the area where they live and roam," the CDC advises. You should also wash the clothes and shoes you wore when you handled the birds and their eggs.
The one thing you shouldn't wash? The eggs themselves. We know it may seem counter intuitive, but scrubbing down the eggs you collect from these potentially bacteria-carrying birds can actually force germs inside the eggs, right where you don't want it. Instead, the CDC recommends you gently rub the eggs with "fine sandpaper, a brush or cloth," then cook the eggs thoroughly before eating. As the agency reminds us, it's not just live poultry that can cause illness. "Raw and undercooked eggs may contain salmonella bacteria that can make you sick."