In South Florida, many people like to keep chickens as pets. But doctors are saying the backyard poultry is making some people sick. Now, the Centers for Disease Control is getting involved and issuing a stern warning.
Frank Johnston has been raising ducks and chickens in South Florida for three years, but his family has owned fowl on farms for decades in Michigan.
“It’s a natural way we’ve lived for thousands of years of raising animals and providing ourselves with food and with the uptake in healthier living, organic living, this has been something a lot of people are interested in,” said Johnston.
But the Centers for Disease Control is now warning backyard coops have caused a nationwide salmonella outbreak with numbers still spiking.
“We’re following ten different outbreaks right now. Each of them is caused by a different strain of salmonella,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC.
The CDC reports that 961 people have tested positive for salmonella this year. That’s more cases than in all of 2016. It’s been found in 48 states, causing 215 hospitalizations and one death.
“We think these cases are going up because more and more people have backyard poultry,” said Tauxe.
The salmonella risk is highest when they are baby chicks. Johnston says he takes every precaution, including free testing by the Department of Agriculture on his birds.
“It involves being dressed in full outfit, and taking blood and swabbing of every bird on the property. They test immediately on the site for sings of viruses. Once everything has come back clean, you’ll get a certification. You’re registered with the state of Florida. If it comes back that you’re positive with a virus, the birds will be destroyed,” said Johnston.
The CDC says always wash or sanitize your hands after contact, don’t snuggle or kiss the birds, don’t let any birds indoors, and clean all equipment outside.
“There are a lot of programs. So when it’s banned by the cities and the counties, people are afraid to come forward and look for that information because they’re afraid they’ll go to jail or be fined and have the animals taken away,” said Johnston.
The CDC also suggests that if you’re raising chickens, practice good hygiene so a hobby doesn’t become a health risk.