DPHHS: Don’t kiss chickens, you’re risking salmonella

Posted at 4:14 PM, Mar 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-13 19:59:44-04

HELENA – Raising backyard poultry has become an increasingly popular activity in Montana.

Spring is a common season to purchase and begin raising young birds, and there are many feed stores in Montana with live chicks ready for sale.

While there are benefits to raising poultry, there are also associated health risks. Poultry can carry and shed bacteria such as Salmonella without showing any signs of disease. Salmonella can cause illness in humans and can be spread while handling live poultry or objects in their environment.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the Department of Livestock (DOL) encourage safe handling of live poultry to prevent potential human illness using these simple prevention methods:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling animals
  • Avoid touching your mouth after animal contact
  • Don’t eat or drink around animals
  • Avoid kissing or snuggling your birds
  • Keep chicks and ducks outside of the home
  • Supervise small children around animals

In 2018, 12% of Montanans who were diagnosed with Salmonella or Campylobacter had a history of poultry contact before they became ill.

“Even if animals appear healthy and clean, they can still transmit disease to people,” said Rachel Hinnenkamp, Epidemiologist for the DPHHS Public Health and Safety Division.

Children under five and people with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic disease, are at the highest risk for infection and should avoid handling live poultry.

“When caring for backyard flocks, these prevention methods will help keep you and your families healthy and enjoying the benefits of raising animals,” said DOL Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Tahnee Szymanski. “While using proper safety precautions, raising your own backyard poultry can be a fun and safe experience.”

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