(Salt Lake City, UT) – Utah public health officials are advising families to avoid potential exposure to Salmonella by not giving baby chicks and ducklings to children as Easter gifts.
Utah Department of Health Epidemiologist, Julia Hall, says while there currently is no state investigation associated with baby chick exposure for 2012, in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Utah did have clusters of Salmonella, possibly associated with baby chick exposure. Hall says, “Many chicks and young birds carry Salmonella, and it’s difficult to know if animals are carrying Salmonella because they usually don’t show signs of illness.”
Children are especially susceptible because they frequently put their fingers into their mouths and because their immune systems are still developing. Pregnant women, the elderly, people with HIV/AIDS and other immunocompromised individuals are also at higher risk.
Symptoms may include mild or severe diarrhea, fever and occasionally vomiting. These symptoms generally develop within one to three days after exposure to baby chicks and their droppings. Other symptoms may include nausea, chills, or headaches. Bloodstream infections can be very serious, particularly in the very young or elderly.
Hall suggests taking the following precautions to prevent Salmonella infection:
- Don’t let kids younger than five years of age handle poultry or items contaminated by poultry. Other high risk groups should also avoid handling poultry or contaminated items.
- Thoroughly wash hands after handling poultry or their droppings.
- Don’t eat or drink around poultry or their living areas.
- Don’t wash food or water dishes for poultry in the kitchen sink.
- Don’t clean cages or animals inside your home.
- Don’t let poultry live inside your home.
For more about the risk of Salmonella from poultry see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: www.cdc.gov/healthypets/easter_chicks.htm.