It is no secret that Montanans enjoy raising backyard poultry. As spring approaches, folks are more likely to purchase and begin raising young birds. Department of Public Health and Human Services Epidemiologist Rachel Hinnenkamp says there are benefits to raising poultry, but there are also associated health risks.

“If you are interacting with live poultry, it is important to remember that they can have bacteria in their feathers and they can shed it,” Hinnenkamp said. “Salmonella can make humans sick even if the birds don’t look outwardly ill.”

According to Hinnenkamp, there are simple prevention methods people should follow in order to prevent potential human illness.

“It is a good idea to remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you have been interacting with them,” Hinnenkamp said. “Be sure to avoid touching your mouth after animal contact or eating in the area where the birds live. You should definitely avoid snuggling or kissing the birds. It is also a good idea to keep chicks and ducks outside of the home so that their area stays separate from the place where you live and eat.”

In 2018, Hinnenkamp says there were 560 cases of Salmonella and Campylobacter in Montana. Both of those illness can come from interactions with birds.