Salmonella bacteria and chicks
Many chicks carry Salmonella bacteria in their intestinal tract and shed these bacteria in their feces. Although Salmonella bacteria may not cause illness in chicks, it can cause serious illness in people.
Salmonella bacteria are easily spread from chicks to humans. Humans may become infected when they touch and consume food after handling objects that have been in contact with the stool of chicks. For example, a baby may be infected by drinking infant formula from a bottle prepared by someone who did not wash hands after touching a chick. The Salmonella bacteria must be ingested in order to spread from chicks to humans. Simply touching or holding a chick will not result in the spread of bacteria.
Most Salmonella infections in humans result in a mild, self-limiting illness characterized by diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. However, the infection can spread to the bloodstream, bone marrow, or nervous system, leading to severe and sometimes fatal illness. Such severe infections are more likely to occur in infants or individuals whose immune systems are compromised (for instance, bone marrow transplant recipients, persons with diabetes mellitus, persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, and chemotherapy patients).
Fortunately, routine precautions can easily prevent the spread of Salmonella bacteria from chicks to humans:
Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water after handling chicks, chick cages and equipment, or chick feces.
Keep chicks penned in outbuildings or outside. Always wash your hands after visiting any area where chicks are kept.
Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling chicks, chick cages, or chick equipment.
Do not kiss chicks or share food or drink with them.
Children less than five years of age should avoid contact with chicks. Older children should be supervised when handling chicks to ensure that they do not place their hands or other objects exposed to chicks into their mouths. Chicks should not be kept in childcare centers.
Immunocompromised persons should avoid contact with chicks.
Handle with care
Follow instructions from your veterinarian concerning proper diet and environment for your chicks. Healthy chicks living in proper environments are less likely to shed Salmonella bacteria.
Information in this handout is not meant to discourage chick or poultry ownership. With a few exceptions (for example, infants or immunocompromised individuals), most people have a low risk of acquiring samonellosis from chicks. Following simple precautions can reduce risk of infection even further.
Remember: DON’T LICK YOUR CHICK
Oregon Department of Agriculture, Animal Health Program 503-986-4680
Revised March 2008