Salmonella and Baby Poultry
Although baby chicks and ducklings are a great sign of spring, you might want to think twice before bringing them home as pets.
People can become infected with Salmonella from eating food contaminated with the bacteria or having contact with an infected animal’s feces. Approximately 1,300 people with Salmonella infections are reported each year in Ohio; however, the true number of Ohioans infected each year is estimated to be more than 37,000 because many people do not seek medical treatment and are not diagnosed with Salmonella. Children less than 5 years of age, adults older than 60 years of age and people who are immunocompromised are at a higher risk for severe infection from Salmonella.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has investigated multiple Salmonella outbreaks associated with live chicks and ducklings. There have been at least 48 such outbreaks since the 1990s. Last year, the largest outbreak of Salmonella linked to live poultry ever recorded in the United States occurred with 363 human cases in 43 states and the territory of Puerto Rico.
How is Salmonella transmitted?
Children become infected by putting their fingers or other things contaminated with chick stool into their mouths. Chicks and ducklings often do not appear dirty but may have feces on their feathers and beaks - places where children are likely to touch.
How do I know if a chick or duckling has Salmonella?
Many chicks and young birds carry Salmonella in their feces. It is difficult to know if chicks are carrying Salmonella because they will not usually show signs of illness.
How do I reduce the exposure of young children to Salmonella from chicks and ducklings?
- Do NOT purchase live animals as gifts. Give toy stuffed animals instead.
- Do not let children under 5 years of age handle baby chicks or other young birds. Keep them from coming into contact with packages in which chicks or ducklings arrive.
- If anyone touches the chicks or ducklings or their environment, make sure that they wash their hands immediately afterwards. Pacifiers, toys, bottles or other objects should not touch the baby birds or their enclosures. If these objects do become contaminated, wash them with warm soapy water.
- Do not allow anyone to eat or drink while interacting with birds or their environment. Keep the bird area separate from areas where food and drink are prepared or consumed. Do not allow chicks or ducklings on table surfaces or places where food will be prepared or eaten.
- Talk to your veterinarian, nurse or doctor about possible risk factors.
Click here for a printable flyer from the CDC on the Dos and Don’ts of handling live poultry (Spanish version, French version).
What are the signs of Salmonella infections in humans?
Most people have diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain that starts one to three days after they ingest the bacteria. These symptoms usually resolve after one week. Other symptoms might be nausea, chills, headaches or general achy feeling. Young children, the elderly and other immunocompromised persons may have a more severe infection. Occasionally, infections are so severe that people have to see a doctor or be hospitalized.
How are Salmonella infections diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosis is made by culturing Salmonella from the stool. Treatments are usually supportive, consisting of fluid therapy and pain relief. Antibiotics should only be used to treat severe cases of illness because antibiotics may prolong the disease and many strains of Salmonella are resistant to antibiotics. If you think you may have a Salmonella infection, contact your physician.
ODH Poultry Information: http://www.odh.ohio.gov/poultry
Keeping Backyard Poultry: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SalmonellaPoultry/
Risk of Human Salmonella Infections from Live Baby Poultry: http://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellababybirds/
Peep, chirp, quack! What you should know about Salmonella if you keep backyard poultry: http://www.cdc.gov/media/matte/2011/07_salmonellapoultry.pdf
CDC Blog: Thinking about keeping live poultry? http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2010/10/thinking-about-keeping-live-poultry/
CDC Salmonella Information: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella
USDA Biosecurity for Birds: http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov
Page updated: 2/27/2015