April 21, 2000
Easter Eggs and Baby Chicks can Bring Holiday Illness
Six cases of Salmonella identified in
Portland, OR (SafetyAlerts) - Most people like
holiday traditions like Easter eggs and baby chicks, but these fun surprises can lead to
health surprises most people would rather live without.
This spring Oregon has identified six cases of
Salmonella Montevideo infections linked to baby chicks. The baby chicks tested were also
positive for this strain of Salmonella.
It is not unusual for baby chicks to pass Salmonella to people.
During 1995 and 1996 children in Washington State developed Salmonella infections
associated with exposure to baby chicks. Last year, Salmonella outbreaks related to
handling chicks and ducklings were also reported in Michigan and Missouri.
The risk of severe illness posed by chicks and
ducklings may be highest for children, since Salmonella infections in children may be more
severe, and children are often recipients of chicks or ducklings as pets, according to Dr.
Emilio De Bess, Oregon's state public health veterinarian.
Chicks, ducklings and other young fowl may not be
appropriate pets for children younger than 5 years or for persons with a weakened immune
Most reptiles and many birds shed Salmonella in
their feces. Humans become infected when contaminated food, hands, or other objects are
placed in the mouth; therefore, hand washing is critical to prevent Salmonella infections
following direct or indirect contact with animals.
People who plan to handle baby chicks and
ducklings should remember to wash their hands after playing with these pets.
Health officials offered the following prevention
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap after handling baby
chicks or any other animal or after coming in contact with their feces.
- Keep your poultry in an outdoor area designated for
them and provide proper food and care.
- Do not nuzzle or kiss your poultry or birds.
Symptoms of salmonellosis usually begin 12-72
hours after exposure and include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Illness usually
lasts 4-7 days, and most people will recover without treatment. Infants, children, the
elderly and immunocompromised persons are more likely to experience severe illness due to
Salmonella that may require treatment and/or hospitalization.
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