The CDC Warned That These Common Animals Have Made 474 People Sick

The agency also believes that the actual number of infections is likely much higher.

Whether it's parrots or puppies, living with a furry roommate is an endless source of amusement and joy for millions of people. Some studies have even shown that having certain pets can add years to your life. But if you're the owner of a backyard coop, you may want to start distancing yourself from your feathered friends. That's because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just warned that chickens have made at least 474 people sick across the U.S. in part of an ongoing outbreak.

The agency's most recent announcement served as an update on an ongoing Salmonella outbreak linked to backyard poultry and ducks, representing a significant spike from the 163 cases the agency had reported since January on May 24. According to CDC data, the surge has seen people infected across 46 states, among whom the median age is 36. For 103 individuals—or 31 percent of the affected population—hospitalization has been necessary, and there has been one reported death associated with the outbreak in Indiana.

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The CDC also cautioned that the actual infection numbers are likely much higher, since many individuals who become infected recover from their illness without requiring medical attention. It can also sometimes take three to four weeks to test patients and assess whether or not they are part of an active outbreak.

In a previous advisory on May 20, the CDC warned that touching or handling live chickens or ducks could put you at risk for a serious bacterial infection—especially children under the age of five, seniors aged 65 and older, and immunocompromised people, all of whom are more susceptible to serious complications from ingesting Salmonella. "Don't kiss or snuggle backyard poultry, and don't eat or drink around them," the agency cautioned in their statement. "This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick," even if the birds appear to be healthy and clean.

The agency says the most common Salmonella symptoms include diarrhea that is bloody or lasts more than three days, a fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Symptoms usually start between six hours and six days after exposure and last four to seven days before clearing up. However, the CDC warns that 41 percent of samples taken from 382 of those infected during the outbreak showed signs of antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacterium.

"Most people with Salmonella illness recover without antibiotics. However, if antibiotics are needed, some illnesses in this outbreak may be difficult to treat with some commonly recommended antibiotics and may require a different antibiotic choice," the CDC cautioned.

On top of resisting the urge to cuddle or kiss your fowl friends, the CDC also suggests putting hand sanitizer near coops and washing your hands anytime you've handled the birds or been in their living environment. They also suggest cleaning any eggs properly and storing them in the refrigerator as soon as you gather them.

While the agency cautions that infections are likely more widespread than data shows, nearly all states have reported at least one case, including four states that have reported more than 21. Read on to see which states have seen the most people made sick by chickens and backyard poultry.

RELATED: The CDC Just Banned These Pets Amid Safety Concerns.


athens georgia skyline
Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Number of reported sick people: 23


Madison, Wisconsin, USA downtown skyline at dusk on Lake Monona.

Number of reported sick people: 23

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North Carolina

North Carolina

Number of reported sick people: 25


cityscape photo of downtown Columbus, Ohio at night

Number of reported sick people: 28

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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