DHS news release
April 6, 2006
Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (971) 673-1282
Technical contacts: Emilio DeBess, public health veterinarian, DHS (971) 673-1111
Don Hansen, state veterinarian, Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (503) 986-4780
Baby chicks and ducklings bring Salmonella risk
Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) are cautioning parents to think twice before buying a baby chick or duckling for children, particularly when the child is age 5 or younger.
These popular springtime pets may carry Salmonella infection.
Since 1996, baby chicks have been connected with seven outbreaks of salmonellosis in Oregon, affecting at least 71 people, according to Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., public health veterinarian in DHS.
"Keeping baby chicks inside the house and allowing small children to handle and snuggle with the baby birds adds to the health risk," said DeBess. "In some cases, parents did not wash their hands properly after handling the birds and gave the infection to their children indirectly."
Younger children are more susceptible to infection because they are more likely to put their fingers into their mouths and because their immune systems are still developing, according to DeBess.
DeBess said that many chicks and young birds carry Salmonella bacteria in their droppings, but it is difficult to know if they are infected because they do not usually show signs of illness.
Symptoms of salmonellosis usually develop one to three days after exposure and may include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
DeBess advises the following prevention steps:
Give stuffed toy animals rather than live animals to your younger children this year.
Always wash your hands with soap and water after touching chicks or ducklings or anything in their environment.
Supervise hand washing for small children to make sure it is adequate.
Keep baby chicks away from food preparation areas.
Baby chicks and other live animals should always be housed outside.
Additional information and recommendations are on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site.