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May 10, 2014 1:09 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Backyard birds linked to bacteria

TUCSON - Health officials are warning chicken owners to be aware of salmonella, even in perfectly healthy, organically raised birds.

Carolyn Lanser is one of many new chicken owners. She is raising backyard birds on a Northeast Side cul-de-sac.

"They're my favorite pet now. Because they eat my leftover food, and they actually give me something every day," Lanser said. "It's kind of an interesting thing, having the pride of eating eggs every day that are yours. And you know what the animals are fed. And the kids say they taste better."

She has two children who know to wash their hands after handling their pets.

"Pretty much the rule, we have tortoises as well, wash your hands afterwards," Lanser said. "It's kind of normal every time you're touching animals like that."

The Pima County Health Department has not linked live chickens to any salmonella cases. The disease infected 189 people in 2013, 178 people in 2012 and 230 in 2011. Those cases include food borne, surface contact and animal contact. Proper handwashing is the best defense against salmonella.

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