Chicken-costume enthusiasts may have been alarmed earlier this week, when headlines proclaimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was “ruining Halloween” by, …telling people not to put chickens in costumes?
The problem is, the CDC never said this.
“Recent media stories erroneously reported that the [CDC] warned people against dressing chickens in Halloween costumes. The CDC hasn’t given this advice,” Benjamin Haynes, a spokesperson for the agency, told Live Science in an email. [Tiny & Nasty: Images of Things That Make Us Sick]
That said, handling chickens comes with risks. Indeed, the CDC does “advise people with backyard chickens to handle them carefully to keep their family and their chickens safe and healthy,” Haynes said.
The concern with handling chickens is, of course, Salmonella. Chickens carry the bacteria, which can make people sick. Infection with Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the germs. And although most people recover on their own within a week, some people may need to be hospitalized. The infection is particularly dangerous for people with weakened immune systems and young children, whose immune systems are still developing. (The CDC notes that children under 5 should never touch or hold chickens.)
So, how can you and your costume-clad chicken safely celebrate Halloween? The CDC said in the email that the agency recommends washing the chicken costume in the washing machine in hot water after it’s been worn by the bird. You should also wash your hands after handling the costume. (In fact, you should wash your hands after handling chickens or anything chicken-related, no matter the time of year.)
And lest you think that the CDC cares about only your health and not the health of your festively costumed flock, the email included a bit of advice: “Make sure your chicken can breathe and walk normally while wearing the costume.”
Happy Halloween, chickens!
(Please note that the CDC’s recommendation about not kissing your chickens still stands.)
Originally published on Live Science.