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Tips on Safely Raising Backyard Poultry to Avoid Getting Sick this Spring

Each year many people begin or continue raising backyard poultry flocks. These flocks have been gaining in popularity over the past several years and interest in them continues to grow. 

But there can be health risks for birds and humans associated with raising these flocks.

“The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) wants to remind flock owners to learn about and practice essential prevention measures to minimize the risk of disease transmission among both birds and humans, known as biosecurity,” said Ashlyn Wayman, a lead investigative epidemiologist with the Infectious Disease Prevention and Response service. “Biosecurity practices are vital in protecting not only your own birds, but neighboring flocks as well as our nation’s commercial poultry industry, from diseases like highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).”

HPAI is an influenza virus that can cause severe illness and sudden death in chickens. Wild birds can also be infected with HPAI, but rarely show signs of illness and can transmit infection to backyard poultry flocks and other animals without any visible signs of infection.  

Chickens exposed to wild birds carrying the HPAI virus are at greatest risk for developing this disease that can quickly become widespread to backyard and commercial flocks. Although rare, there are cases where humans have been infected.

Humans can become sick with various diarrheal illnesses when biosecurity practices are not routinely used when in contact with poultry, including Salmonella. Children younger than five years of age are more likely to get sick from exposure to germs like Salmonella.

Examples of biosecurity practices to protect backyard flocks are:

  • Don’t set up bird feeders near chicken coops.
  • Keep feed covered to protect it from exposure to wild birds and rodents.
  • Avoid wearing boots and clothes used to bird hunt when caring for domestic birds.
  • If possible, house birds in a pen that prevents wild birds and predators from entering.

It is also important to practice good hygiene and monitor children who are interacting with poultry by following these safety tips:

  • Do not let children younger than five years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without supervision.
    • Symptoms of Salmonella are diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, headache, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Blood is sometimes found in the stool. The illness usually lasts four to seven days but can last as long as two weeks and in severe cases can result in hospitalization.
  • Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth while handling poultry or the environment around poultry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water right after handling any type of bird or when your hands are visibly dirty. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent ethyl alcohol.
  • Do not wash animal food and water dishes from a backyard poultry flock in the kitchen sink.

“Following good biosecurity and hygiene practices can make a backyard flock a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Wayman. “Raising poultry is a great 4-H or FFA project for youth and of course there is nothing better than home grown eggs for breakfast.”

Source : oklahoma.gov

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