Chickens can pass disease to humans. In particular, the transmission of avian flu and bacteria are of great concern. Live chickens can pass avian flu to humans and bacterial infections can be transmitted through contact with the birds. Staph infections and food poisoning can be contracted if proper food handling procedures are not followed. Properly cooking chicken removes part of the risk but it does not remove all risk. Care should be used when in contact with chickens.
Salmonella is the most common type of bacterial infection that humans can contract from chickens. It is a normally occurring gut bacterium; however, when a chicken is kept under stressful conditions the balance in the gut gets out of whack. Salmonella is passed from chicken to egg during shell formation. It also resides within the chicken's body. Safe food handling procedures minimise the risk.
Campylobacter enteritis is another bacteria that causes food poisoning in humans. It is passed from chicken to human, usually through undercooked meat. This bacterium is very susceptible to heat. Proper cooking temperatures and timing are extremely important methods of keeping campylobacter enteritis under control.
Commonly referred to as a staph infection, staphylococcus aureus can be transmitted from raw chicken to humans as well as from live chickens to humans. Once staphylococcus aureus is contracted, humans can spread it to other humans as it is highly contagious.
This is a serious viral infection that has many people worried. Some medical professionals feel that avian flu will be the next flu pandemic. There are two strains of avian flu of particular concern. Both H7N7 and H5N1 are proven to pass from poultry to humans. The first was noted in an outbreak back in 1997 in The Netherlands. Almost 100 individuals became infected with this virus as a result of direct contact with chickens and poultry. The H5N1 is more recent. First identified in 2004, it remains a worldwide concern.
Current large-scale poultry farming practices are part of the problem associated with disease transmission from chicken to humans. Raising chickens in extremely close quarters is unhealthy and promotes the accelerated spread of disease. Reducing the number of chickens per building and adhering to proper food-handling guidelines greatly reduces the outbreaks of diseases passed from poultry to human.