Baby chicks and ducklings may look like cute Easter gifts, but the young fowl can be dangerous for children. State health officials are warning parents to resist the temptation to purchase them as holiday presents.
“Baby chicks and ducklings that are being advertised as Easter gifts pose a real health risk for young children and those with weakened immune systems,” says Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist for the Division of Public Health. “These birds may appear healthy, but they can carry strains of Salmonella and other bacteria that can cause serious illness.”
In the past, baby chicks have been identified as sources of Salmonella in residents of Idaho and other states. Annually people from across the country are sickened from contact with young chicks; many of the infections are documented around the Easter holiday or associated with backyard poultry production.
People, especially children, can be exposed to the Salmonella bacteria by holding, cuddling or kissing the apparently healthy birds. Children are most susceptible to infection by Salmonella from chicks because they are more likely to put their fingers in their mouths after animal contact and because their immune systems are still developing. Persons with HIV/AIDS, or who are pregnant, elderly or with other conditions that weaken the immune system also are at increased risk for infection.
Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts four to seven days.
To prevent illness associated with baby birds:
More information can be found at CDC’s Healthy Pets Healthy People Easter chick’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/easter_chicks.htm.
Released April 14, 2011. Media Contact: Emily Simnitt, DHW Public Information Officer, (208) 334-0693.