Go Ahead and Dress Up Your Chickens for Halloween, CDC Says

WASHINGTON -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated today that it has no objection, despite reports to the contrary, to people dressing up their chickens in Halloween costumes.

Several news outlets picked up a story from KNOE in Louisiana reporting that the CDC had asked poultry owners to keep their chickens naked for the holiday because of the salmonella risk.

The CDC has been investigating a 29-state outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella infections linked to raw chicken pet food, raw chicken products, and live chickens that has sickened 92 people and hospitalized 21. One common supplier has not been identified in the outbreak.

But the CDC says that doesn't mean chicken costumes are out this year.

"Despite news reports to the contrary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not warned people against dressing chickens in Halloween costumes," the agency said in a statement today. "However, we do advise people with backyard or pet chickens to handle them carefully to keep their family and their chickens safe and healthy."

The CDC did remind chicken keepers to not let the birds roam in the house. "Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam," the agency said. "Don’t kiss your birds or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth."

Meanwhile, the CDC fears that the drug-resistant strain in the current salmonella outbreak "might be widespread in the chicken industry."

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps 12 to 72 hours after being exposed to the bacteria, the agency said, and are sick for 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment but sometimes hospitalization is needed, particularly in children under 5 years of age or patients over 65.

"In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Of 54 people interviewed, 48 (89%) people interviewed reported preparing or eating chicken products that were purchased raw, including ground chicken, chicken pieces, and whole chicken. Ill people reported buying many different brands of raw chicken products from multiple stores," CDC said. "Also, one person got sick after pets in their home ate raw ground chicken pet food. Another ill person lived with someone who works in a facility that raises or processes chickens."