Opponents of Tecumseh’s backyard chickens ordinance have recently raised the specters of avian flu and salmonella. However, neither of these should be a concern to informed voters.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the spread of the avian influenza virus to humans is extremely rare. In fact, there have been zero reported cases of the current strain, H5N2, in humans in the U.S.
Avian flu is caused by a virus that infects wild birds such as geese, ducks, and swans, which can occasionally be transmitted to domestic poultry. It presents a particular threat to chickens in a factory-farm setting, where they live in crowded, unsanitary conditions, pumped full of antibiotics just to keep them alive. Any disease spreads rapidly in these conditions.
Backyard flocks, on the other hand, are isolated from other birds that might expose them to disease and are healthier overall. Simple biosecurity practices on the part of chicken owners will prevent disease from spreading between backyard flocks, like washing your hands and changing your shoes if you’ve visited someone else who also has chickens.
Similarly, washing your hands with ordinary soap and water is a simple, common sense preventative for the risks of salmonella, a type of bacteria that can be present in chicken feces. People become infected with it when they put their hands or other things that have been in contact with feces in or around their mouth. Salmonella infections are rarely fatal and are treated with common antibiotics.
Furthermore, salmonella can also be spread by dogs and cats. Dogs are often carriers of roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms as well, and cats can transmit toxoplasmosis. Yet people live alongside these pets despite undue worry about health risks. Teaching your kids not to kiss their animals, and to wash their hands after caring for them, is a sensible solution.
In short, potential health concerns about backyard chickens have been vastly overblown by opponents, and in fact represent the use of scare tactics in an attempt to influence the upcoming vote.
I encourage Tecumseh residents to vote yes for backyard chickens on November 3.