GREENSBORO, N.C. — They can help reduce our blood pressure and cholesterol levels and manage feelings of loneliness and depression. We’re talking about our pets! But along with those benefits, they can sometimes carry harmful germs that can make us sick even when the pet appears to be just fine.
Memberships to the American Poultry Association rose in 2020, as cooped in Americans started backyard flocks. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those new flocks came with an explosion of salmonella outbreaks—not from eating the birds, but from handling them.
"Bacteria can spread from live poultry via their feces. They walk in it, peck in it, and roll around in the dirt, and it can get on their feathers and beaks. That’s why the CDC advises against cuddling or kissing your pet poultry," said Sana Mujahid, Consumer Reports Food Safety expert.
And it’s not just feathered pets that can make us sick. Even animals that are healthy and well taken care of can carry germs like E. coli or salmonella.
Keeping your animals’ outdoor areas as tidy as possible can help reduce the number of feces they track around. And remove your outdoor shoes before you go inside.
"It’s also important to keep pets—especially cats that go in and out of a litter box—off your counters and tables. If that’s not possible, at least clean those spaces before you prepare any food," said Mujahid.
Your pet’s food may also cause a risk, especially raw pet food, which can carry potentially harmful bacteria like listeria that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
The best thing you can do to keep your pets and yourself healthy is to wash your hands. Every time you touch an animal, their food, or their bowls, head to the sink for at least a 20-second scrub with soap and water.