Chicks are cute, salmonella is not

Those cute baby chicks are hatching everywhere, before you pick one up, be aware of the germ called salmonella that could make you very sick.

Thinking about giving a cute little chick or duckling to someone for Easter? You may want to reconsider once you realize that sweet little bird may be filled with salmonella. This is the time of the year where you will see adorable chicks and ducklings on display and for sale at feed stores and other sites. Children and adults may have the opportunity to touch the birds or areas where they are displayed. Because these little fellows are so soft and cuddly, many folks don’t realize the potential danger lurking within baby poultry, especially to young children. Each spring, the CDC reports some children become infected with salmonella, but it is important to remember that illness can happen from these baby birds or adult birds at any time of the year.

Exposure to salmonella can happen by holding live poultry, touching items where the bird lives, such as cages or feed and water bowls. Young children are more susceptible to this infection because their immune system is still developing and they tend to put their fingers or other items into their mouths after handling the poultry.

Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or abdominal cramps. Occasionally hospitalization may occur. Populations most vulnerable to salmonella are infants, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems such as cancer, AIDS, asthma or transplant patients.

To reduce the chances of salmonella infection from live poultry, Michigan State University Extension suggests following these guidelines:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live baby poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • An adult should supervise hand washing of younger children, to ensure a thorough job is done.
  • Don’t let children younger than 5-years-old handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
  • Don’t snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth or eat or drink around the live baby poultry.
  • Don’t let live baby poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchen or outdoor patios.
  • Don’t clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry, (cages or feed or water containers) inside your house.
  • Don’t give live baby poultry as gifts to young children.

So before you start petting and giving the cute little chick all your springtime love, make sure you will have a sufficient place to wash, you are set up at home with an outdoor setting if you decide to bring home a chick or two, and you lead by example with your children by gently petting and then washing your hands so you don’t get sick.

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