Speaking of Your Health: Salmonella spring

Aug 06 2018

Spring has finally arrived! It’s time to say “goodbye” to snow and say “hello” to warmer temperatures, flowers, baby chicks and…Salmonella? Not something you normally associate with spring, however, Salmonella poisonings are a concern for public health officials during this time of year. The culprits in this case are newly hatched baby chicks and ducklings.


Thousands of Americans every year are sickened by the bacteria, Salmonella. According to Food Safety News, over the past three years, more than 1,200 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella have been linked to chicks and ducklings, with tens of thousands more estimated to have gone unreported. These cases tend to spike around spring time.


Young children under the age of five years old need to be monitored closely when handling the birds. Parents are urged to make sure their children don’t try to kiss the birds or stick their fingers in their mouths after handling them. Good hand washing with warm water and soap is important to prevent illness after handling the birds.


The Washington State Department of Health has published safety tips for those who may handle or own birds:


• Always wash hands with soap and water after handling birds.


It is the single most important thing you can do. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand wipes and gel sanitizers may be used. Sanitizers may not be as effective if hands are too dirty. Clean off as much dirt as possible before using sanitizers.


• Don’t get baby birds as pets for children younger than five years old.


Raising poultry can be a great experience, but sometimes adults make the mistake of giving a chick or duckling to a young child as a spontaneous gift. Young poultry given as pets to children often don’t survive, and if they do, they aren’t as cute and cuddly when they’re adults. Young children are also more at risk from severe illness from Salmonella.


• Always supervise children while handling poultry.


Don’t allow children to nuzzle or kiss chicks and ducklings, touch their mouths with their hands, or eat and drink while handling birds.


• Keep live birds away from family living spaces.


Keep birds out of the kitchen. Disinfect areas where feeders, water containers, and cages are cleaned.


Those aged 65 and older or five years of age and younger are most susceptible to Salmonella infection. Most who are infected with the bacteria will develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping about 12 to 72 hours after exposure. Illness usually lasts four to seven days. Most will recover without treatment. However, some may need to be hospitalized if they become severely dehydrated.


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