(NBC News) Chickens are not only a source of fresh eggs for families, they may be a source of illness.
"People just don't know that healthy chickens, ducks and other poultry carry germs like salmonella that can make people sick," warns Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh of the Centers for Disease Control.
Over the past 20 years there have been more than 2,000 reported cases of salmonella linked to live poultry. Five people have died.
On Thursday, the CDC announced an investigation into an outbreak caused by contact with chicks supplied by Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio.
So far more than 60 people in 23 states have fallen ill; a third were hospitalized
A majority of patients are young children, and cases often spike after Easter when parents order chicks as gifts.
Most illnesses happen when chicken owners treat their birds like family, bringing them into their homes, and research shows more than one in ten owners kiss their birds.
"Don't kiss the bird! You can show your affections in other ways with a simple pet or something like that," warns Dr. Barton Behravesh, "But you don't need to kiss your bird because that will increase your risk of a salmonella infection."
Experts say there's no need to limit your interactions with chickens, just be sure to wash your hands.