- By Michelle Ewing, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
They may look cute and cuddly, but your backyard chickens, ducks and their babies could be making you sick.
According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 212 salmonella cases in 44 states have been "linked to contact with live poultry in backyard flocks."
As of July 13, 34 people had been hospitalized in connection with the outbreaks since February, the CDC reported Monday. Nobody has died.
About 26 percent of those sickened are children under 5 years old, the CDC said.
"Epidemiologic, traceback and laboratory findings link these outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, which come from multiple hatcheries," the CDC said, adding that 72 percent of sick people who were interviewed "reported contact with chicks or ducklings in the week before their illness started."
Health officials are warning anyone who comes into contact with live poultry to immediately wash their hands afterward and avoid eating or drinking near the birds.
Another tip? "Don't kiss your birds or snuggle them and then touch your face or mouth," the CDC said.