Beware of Salmonella from Easter Chicks, Ducklings, CDC Warns

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) writes that while <"">Salmonella are a common cause of food borne illness, the dangerous—sometimes-deadly—pathogen can also be spread to people by direct contact with animals that carry the bacteria, such as reptiles and birds.

Although the proportion of Salmonella cases associated with exposure to live chicks and ducklings is unknown, outbreaks of Salmonella infections have been linked to exposure to baby chicks and ducklings, with many outbreaks have occurring in the spring months of March to June, particularly close to the Easter season. Children may be at risk for acquiring Salmonella infection from these pet or farmyard birds after they receive them as gifts, said the CDC. Children also are less likely to wash their hands after handling or playing with the birds; children also tend to have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults.

Because of this springtime trend, the CDC is providing the following information on Salmonella and what consumers can do to reduce the transmission of Salmonella from pet or farmyard chicks and ducklings:

• Salmonella bacteria are living microscopic creatures that pass from the feces of animals or people to other animals or people.
• Children, more frequently than other persons, tend to become ill with Salmonella.
• Symptoms of Salmonella infection usually begin 12-72 hours after exposure and include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Illness usually lasts four-to-seven days; most people recover without treatment. A small number of people may develop a more severe form of Salmonella infection called Reiter’s syndrome, which causes pains in the joints, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. The syndrome can last for months to years and can lead to chronic arthritis.
• Antibiotics usually are not necessary for Salmonella infection, unless the infection spreads from the intestines. Infants, children, the elderly, and immunocompromised persons are likelier to experience severe illness due to Salmonella and may require treatment and/or hospitalization. Severe forms of Salmonellosis include infections of the blood or lining of the brain.
• There is no vaccine to prevent Salmonella infection.
• Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of Salmonella infection are reported in the United States; however, because many milder cases are neither diagnosed nor reported, the actual number is estimated to be 20 to 100 times greater. An estimated 500 deaths related to reported cases occur annually.
• Contact with feces from chicks and ducklings should be avoided. Carefully wash your hands—and the hands of infants and children—with soap and water after handling these birds and after touching anything that had contact with them.
• To reduce the risk for Salmonellosis in other ways: Keep chicks or ducklings away from food-preparation areas.
• Thoroughly cook poultry, ground beef, and eggs before eating.
• Avoid eating foods or beverages that contain raw eggs or unpasteurized milk.
• Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have come in contact with raw meat, poultry, or other foods of animal origin. Also, wash hands after contact with any other pets, including reptiles (i.e., turtles, iguanas, other lizards, and snakes) because these usually carry Salmonella.

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