LANSING – Health experts at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are warning parents about the potential for baby poultry to carry Salmonella — noting “not to kiss the chicks.”
With the celebration of Easter just around the corner and weather getting warmer — school trips to farms become more frequent and exposure to birds increase — as does the fun of petting newborn chicks – but beware.
A common bacteria found in the droppings of poultry, Salmonella can cause illness in people. Salmonella germs contaminate feathers, feet and beaks of birds, as well as cages, coops and the environment where the birds live and roam.
“Washing your hands thoroughly before and after handling chicks and other poultry protects both you and your family from the risk of Salmonella, and also helps keep the birds healthy,” said MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells. “Even birds appearing cute, healthy, and clean can carry bacteria that can make people sick.”
In 2016, there were nine nationwide outbreaks of Salmonella illness linked to contact with live poultry, causing illness in 911 people in 48 states. Michigan reported 55 cases, of which almost half (45 percent) were in children.
During spring, live baby poultry are often displayed in stores in a way that children may be able to reach and touch the birds or areas where the birds are contained. This is one way people become exposed to harmful bacteria that leads to illness. People may also obtain birds through the mail by placing an order directly with a hatchery that supplies baby birds to raise for food or as pets.
Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or abdominal cramps lasting four to seven days or more. Salmonella infections can be especially serious for the very young, the very old, and those with weak immune systems.
Baby poultry have special requirements for warmth and protection. Backyard flock owners may not be aware of the risk of Salmonella from baby poultry and consequently, may keep the birds inside their home.
Potential poultry owners should plan ahead to provide a proper space that is safe for the birds and for the people in the household. To address this, backyard flock owners should give live poultry their own space to live, outside of the home.
People should follow these recommendations to protect themselves and others:
• Children younger than five years old, older adults or people with weak immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other poultry because they are more likely to become severely ill.
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching the birds or anything in their environment. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
• Use hand sanitizer until you can wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
• Always keep poultry away from areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
• Do not kiss the chicks.
• Do not put anything to or touch your mouth, eat or drink after handling poultry.
• Do not keep live poultry inside the house where people live, eat or sleep.
• Do not give live baby poultry as gifts to young children.
Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment associated with raising or caring for poultry, such as cages, feed, water containers and other materials.
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