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Risk of Human Salmonella Infections from Live Baby Poultry

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Photo: A baby birdPeep, chirp, quack! Live baby poultry, such as chicks, ducklings, goslings, and baby turkeys, often carry harmful germs called Salmonella. After you touch a chick, duck, or other baby bird, or anything in the area where they live and roam, WASH YOUR HANDS so you don’t get sick!


eCard: Peep, chirp, quack! Why Parents Should Think Twice Before Giving Baby Birds to Young Children for Easter

Easter brings to mind brightly colored eggs, baskets full of candy, and large chocolate bunnies. Traditions associated with the Easter season are enjoyable for both children and adults. However, some Easter traditions may be of concern for children and place them at risk for illness. Live baby poultry are sometimes given as Easter gifts.  During the spring months, they are also put on display at stores where children may be able to touch the birds or areas where they are displayed. Because these birds are so soft and cute, many people do not realize the potential danger that live baby poultry can be, especially to children.  Each spring, some children become infected with Salmonella after receiving a chick or other baby bird for Easter.  It is important to remember that illness can occur from these baby birds or adult birds at any time of the year, and not just during the Easter season.

Live baby poultry can carry Salmonella and not appear sick, but can spread the germs to people.  Children can be exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds and by touching things where the bird lives, such as cages or feed and water bowls. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths. 

Salmonella can make people sick with diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and/or abdominal cramps. Sometimes, people can become so sick from a Salmonella infection that they have to go to the hospital. Infants, elderly persons, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. When severe infection occurs, Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Check out the questions and answers below for more information on Salmonella infection and how to prevent getting germs from live baby poultry. You may also obtain further information by talking to your health care provider or veterinarian.

How do people get Salmonella infections from live baby poultry?

Photo: Washing hands with soap and water.Live baby poultry may have Salmonella germs on their bodies and in their droppings, even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, coops, and wherever birds walk around. Anything that live baby poultry touch should be considered contaminated with Salmonella. When you touch live baby poultry, the germs can get on your hands or clothing.  It is important to wash your hands immediately after touching chicks or anything in the area where they live and roam, because the germs on your hands can easily spread to other people or things.  Children tend to touch their mouths frequently, so it is especially important to have them wash their hands after touching live baby poultry.

How do I reduce the risk of Salmonella infection from live baby poultry?

Recommendations for Preventing Transmission ofSalmonella from Live Poultry to Humans

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water immediately after touching poultry.  Use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Do not let children less than 5 years of age touch birds.
  • Do not eat or drink around birds or around their living areas. 
  • Do not let birds inside the house or in areas where food or drink is prepared or served, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
  • Clean bird cages and related items outside of your house, never in the kitchen sink or bathtub.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching live baby poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
  • Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Don’t snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live baby poultry.
  • Do not let live baby poultry inside the house or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, pantries, or outdoor patios.
  • Do not clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry, such as cages or feed or water containers, in the house.
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
  • Don’t give live baby poultry as gifts to young children.

What are the signs, symptoms, and types of treatment available forSalmonella infections?

You can learn more about the signs, symptoms and treatment of Salmonella infection by visiting the CDC Salmonella web site.  If you suspect you and your child has Salmonellainfection, please contact your health care provider immediately.

Photo: ChickensAre there any restrictions about owning live poultry?

Rules and regulations vary by city, county, and state ordinances, so check with your local government to determine restrictions about owning live poultry


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