With the Easter holiday just around the corner, the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Livestock Board are warning residents of the risk of salmonella when giving baby chicks to young children on Easter Sunday, according to a New Mexico Department of Health press release March 19.
“Salmonella is often present in the droppings of chicks and other baby birds, even though the
animals themselves usually won’t show signs of illness,” said Department of Health Secretary
Retta Ward. “That makes it easy for people to let their guard down, and that’s when they run the
risk of getting salmonella.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says since the 1990s, there were 45 salmonella outbreaks linked to live poultry, which resulted in 1,563 illnesses, 221 hospitalizations and five deaths.
New Mexico health officials report during the past seven years, 19 human cases of Salmonella related to baby chicks/ducklings, predominantly in children.
“Salmonella infection can occur when parents keep the baby birds inside the house and allow
their small children to handle and snuggle with them,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, state public health
veterinarian at the Department of Health. “Other cases were brought on when parents didn’t
wash their hands properly after handling the birds, indirectly giving the infection to their
Health officials offer the following recommendations to prevent salmonella:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching live baby birds or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
- Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
- Don’t snuggle or kiss baby birds.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Most individuals infected with salmonella bacteria often experience diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection. The duration of illness is typically 4-7 days and most people recover without treatment.
In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.
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