As spring and the Easter holiday approach, Central Oregon public health departments are reminding everyone that chick handling is a very common source of Salmonella.
Salmonella bacteria are easily spread from chicks to humans. Humans may become infected when they place their hands on objects that have been in contact with the stool of chicks, and then touch food that they eat.
For Salmonella bacteria to spread from chicks to humans, the bacteria must be ingested. Therefore, simply touching or holding a chick will not result in spread of bacteria unless something contaminated with chick feces or the chick itself is placed in the mouth.
Most Salmonella infections in humans result in a mild illness characterized by diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. However, the infection can spread leading to severe, and sometimes fatal, illness. This is more likely to occur in infants and in individuals whose immune system is weak.
This information is not meant to discourage chick/poultry ownership. With a few exceptions, most people have a low risk of acquiring Salmonella from chicks. This risk, however, can be reduced even further by following simple precautions. People should be aware of the methods for reducing their risk of acquiring Salmonella bacteria from chicks, as well as other animals such as; reptiles (snakes, lizards, turtles, and frogs) and farm animals.
Simple tips to prevent the spread of Salmonella bacteria from chicks to humans:
- Always wash hands with hot, soapy water after handling chicks, chick cages and equipment, and the stool of chicks.
- Keep chicks penned in out buildings or outside.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling chicks, chick cages, or chick equipment. Do not kiss chicks or share food or drink with them.
- Children less than five years of age and people with weak immune systems should avoid contact with chicks. Children should be supervised when they are handling chicks to ensure that they do not place their hands, or objects that a chick has contacted, in their mouths. Chicks should not be kept in childcare centers.
- Follow instructions from your veterinarian concerning proper diet and environment for your chick(s). Healthy chicks living in proper environments are less likely to shed Salmonella bacteria.
For more preventative Salmonella information in regards to chick ownership, please visit www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellababybirds/ .