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CDC Halloween warning: Don't costume those backyard chickens

Stephanie Morse, in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, dresses up her family chicks every year for Halloween. (CBS)

Please don’t: Putting those backyard chickens in costume sounds like a good idea for Halloween, but the CDC is saying no.

Getting close enough to dress up a chicken puts humans in danger of contracting and spreading salmonella.

As of Thursday, Oct. 17, 2018, at least 92 people in 29 states have been reported sick from an outbreak of Salmonella Infantis linked to raw chicken products. And the outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw chicken pet food, raw chicken products - and live chickens.

The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said 21 people have been hospitalized in that outbreak. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is monitoring the outbreak.

The reports won’t stop Stephanie Morse, in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana. She dresses up her family chicks every year for Halloween.

"They're a part of my family,” Morse said.

The chickens live in the Morse backyard, but they aren’t cooped up. They’re well fed, have a place to sleep, and they get their feathers ruffled, especially when getting dressed up for the holidays.

"Their bare skin is exposed,” Morse said. “I just like to put a sweater on them to keep them warm and comfortable and some of them have more personality and it's good."

But the CDC is tricking this treat by asking folks not to put their pet chickens in costumes or cuddle with them to keep from being exposed to salmonella.

Key to the CDC’s advice for keeping backyard chickens: “Don’t kiss your birds or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth.”

The CDC’s advice also includes strong recommendations for cleanliness, from handwashing after handling poultry to maintaining a clean coop and wearing separate shoes when caring for your birds – shoes that you would never wear in the house.

Morse agrees with the need for cleanliness.

"It's just about hand hygiene , after you touch, when you go inside make sure you just wash your hands and you watch where you step."

But she’s unwilling to stop putting her chickens in costume.

"I love to hold them and talk to them," she said. "Everybody has a name."


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