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posted on April 09, 2009 11:18
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is urging people not to purchase baby birds as children’s Easter gifts. “Baby chicks, ducklings and other young fowl may pose risks for young children, or for people with weakened immune systems,” says” Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist for the Division of Public Health. “These birds may appear healthy, but they can carry strains of Salmonella bacteria that can cause serious illness.”
In the past, baby chicks have been identified as sources of Salmonella in residents of Idaho and other states. In 2007, over 100 people from across the country were sickened from contact with young chicks; many of the infections were documented around the Easter holiday.
 
People, especially children, can be exposed to the bacteria by holding, cuddling, or kissing the apparently healthy birds and then becoming sick. Children are most susceptible to infection by Salmonella from chicks because they are more likely to put their fingers in their mouths and because their immune systems are still developing. Persons with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, the elderly, and other conditions that weaken the immune system also are at increased risk for infection.
 
Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts four to seven days.
 
To prevent illness associated with baby birds:
  • Do not keep baby birds in child care centers or inside homes;
  • Avoid eating or drinking around birds or their living areas; and
  • After handling birds immediately wash your hands with soap and water.  Avoid touching anything before washing your hands, including pacifiers, toys or bottles.
 
More information can be found at CDC’s Healthy Pets Healthy People Easter chick’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/easter_chicks.htm.