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Don't 'kiss' or 'snuggle' backyard chickens or you could get salmonella, CDC warns

Backyard chickens are the main culprit in a national salmonella outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.

The birds, which have become a status symbol among the elite in Silicon Valley, are now responsible for 52 people contracting salmonella in 21 states, the CDC said. Despite their trendiness in California, it's Ohio that has reported the highest number of salmonella cases, with 9 people falling ill. About one-quarter of the victims of the outbreak are under 5 years old, reports USA Today.

"Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with backyard poultry from multiple hatcheries is the likely source of these outbreaks," the CDC said. "People reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including agricultural stores, websites and hatcheries."

Youngsters and adults alike are likely unaware that the fowl are contagious because they appear "healthy and clean," USA Today reports. Within 12 to 72 hours after being infected, victims often experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. To prevent the spread of the bacteria, the CDC is warning pet parents to refrain from kissing and snuggling their at-home fowl.