It's 2022, and the CDC Still Has to Warn People Not to Kiss Their Chickens

The CDC has issued warnings about salmonella outbreaks linked to backyard poultry every year since at least 2011.

A chicken roams in a backyard coop
Photo: Andrew Thurtell / Getty Images

If you need proof that some Americans just won't listen to government health advisories, you need look to further than the ongoing pandemic. Still, you'd think some advice would be simple enough, like don't kiss a bird that sleeps in a barn. And yet, here we are: America is once again facing an outbreak of salmonella tied to backyard chickens, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is once again warning citizens not to get overly affectionate with their poultry.

According to the CDC website, the health agency has issued warnings about salmonella outbreaks tied to backyard chickens every year since at least 2011. And even in that very first alert, consumers were advised not to "snuggle or kiss the birds."

Here we are, over a decade later, and things haven't changed: On June 10, the CDC issued a media statement warning Americans about a fresh salmonella outbreak linked to backyard poultry. An ongoing investigation by the agency has uncovered 219 illnesses across 38 states including 27 hospitalizations and one death in Tennessee.

"These outbreaks occur annually and coincide with the increase in baby poultry purchases, beginning in the spring," the CDC wrote. "Last year in 2021, a total of 1,135 people got sick from contact with backyard poultry."

So what can people do to avoid getting sick? Importantly, the CDC points out that one in four of those who have gotten sick are children under 5 years old. "Don't let children younger than 5 years touch the birds (including chicks and ducklings) or anything in the area where the birds live and roam," the agency writes, "as their immune systems are still developing, [and they] are more likely to put items in their mouths or not wash hands fully."

Meanwhile, adults should know better. They should wash their hands and clean the equipment they use when interacting with their flock. Then, of course, one rule is still sitting there staring all chicken lovers in the face. It's the first rule right after washing your hands: "Don't kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don't eat or drink around them. This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick."

Do we expect people to finally listen to this advice and help end backyard poultry-related salmonella outbreaks by 2023? Well, as Lynyrd Skynyrd once sang, "I'm as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change."

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