Don’t Cuddle Poultry, People

Look, we get it. We’re all a little lonely right now. Starved for affection. And even though we’ve already been in isolation for more than two months, we’re still adjusting to this lifestyle. Like many others, you may be tempted to acquire—and then kiss and/or cuddle—some poultry. But the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) urges you not to do this: They can harbour dangerous Salmonella bacteria.

Springtime is when chicks and ducklings are typically born. And whether you’ve been raising backyard fowl for some time, or are new to the home poultry game thanks to the pandemic (technically, they can be pets and/or sources of food), you should know that as cute as they may be, canoodling with them can make you sick.

What to know about the outbreak

According to the CDC, there is currently a Salmonella outbreak in the U.S., which has infected at least 27 people in 28 different states, linked to people interacting with backyard poultry. About one-third of those people have been hospitalised, and 30 per cent of those are children under the age of five.

Chicks and ducklings may look perfectly healthy and clean and show no signs of illness, but still be riddled with Salmonella, the CDC warns. As a result, the organisation recommends always washing your hands immediately after touching backyard poultry, their eggs, or anything in the area where they live and roam.

But beyond that, the CDC also urges people not to “kiss backyard poultry or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.” This is apparently something people really do, because this is the second time the CDC has felt the need to issue such a warning in the course of one year. (The last time—September 2019—more than 1,000 people in 49 states were infected with Salmonella.)

Signs of Salmonella infection

If you have, in fact, been smooching poultry recently and are not feeling great, you may want to keep an eye out for these signs and symptoms of Salmonella infection, per the CDC:

  • Developing diarrhoea, fever and stomach cramps six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria

  • The illness usually lasts between four and seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

  • In some cases, the infection could spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other places in the body, requiring hospitalisation.

  • Children younger than 5 years of age, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.

Basically, the rules for backyard poultry are pretty similar to those related to the coronavirus: Make sure to wash hands, and don’t kiss or get too close to fowl. Yes, chicks and ducklings are adorable, but let’s try to limit ourselves to one outbreak at a time.


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