Spring is here and with Easter around the corner, be cautious with giving baby chicks as gifts.
Oregon Health Authority infectious disease experts caution against giving baby chicks as gifts because these cute, fuzzy birds can carry Salmonella bacteria.
They say that because of their size and cuteness, children often pick up the baby birds, hold them close to their faces and even kiss them. And children often don't wash their hands after handling the chicks.
"We know that adult chickens, ducks and other live poultry carry Salmonella bacteria, and that means their offspring can carry it as well," says Emilio DeBess, DVM, state public health veterinarian in the Oregon Health Authority's Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section.
Since 2010, 11 outbreaks of illnesses caused by Salmonella bacteria from baby chicks have occurred in Oregon, affecting at least 72 cases of salmonellosis. Forty-three percent of the cases were children. The last major salmonellosis outbreak, in 2017, occurred after people handled, kissed and kept poultry inside the home.
DeBess says Salmonella infections can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever symptoms lasting three to seven days. Anyone with compromised immune systems, the very young and elderly people could become very ill and die of the infection. "Baby chicks really are not appropriate Easter gifts," says DeBess. "Children younger than 5 can get very sick from Salmonella contamination because their immune systems at that age are not fully developed."
Many people purchasing baby poultry also don't realize the responsibility involved with raising chicks and ducklings as the animals grow up. The birds require space to roam and food to eat, which can get expensive. As a result, they often are abandoned after they become adult chickens and ducks.
Tips for preventing Salmonella infection from baby poultry:
Don't give live baby birds to children. Instead, give stuffed animals.
Always wash hands with soap and water, and thoroughly clean surfaces after handling any animal or coming in contact with animal waste.
Keep chicks in an appropriate outdoor area.
If chicks are handled, never nuzzle or kiss them.
Never allow poultry inside the home.