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posted on March 01, 2013 14:51

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         Date: March 1, 2013

Contact:  Niki Forbing-Orr
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0693

Don’t let your chickens or ducks make you sick 

Spring is almost here, and it’s chick and duckling season. Backyard poultry enthusiasts are starting to establish or replenish their flocks, and some parents may be considering chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts. Public health and agriculture officials encourage everyone to be aware of the risks of acquiring Salmonella, a potentially serious bacterial infection, from the birds.

“Raising chickens and ducks in urban settings for eggs and meat is gaining popularity. We want to be sure that people understand the human health risks, along with the benefits associated with this practice,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “Avoiding transmission of potentially harmful bacteria from poultry to people can be as easy as washing your hands thoroughly after handling the birds, keeping poultry out of the house, and cleaning contaminated cages and other surfaces frequently. We also discourage giving young poultry as Easter gifts, if the long-term commitment to raising the birds is not considered.”

Chicks, ducklings, and other poultry can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies (on their feathers, feet, and beaks), even when they seem to be healthy and clean. The germs usually don't make the birds sick, but they can cause a diarrheal illness that can be mild, severe, or even life threatening in humans. Infants, seniors, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.

In 2012 the largest number of human Salmonella infections linked to backyard flocks in a single year occurred in the United States. The infections were associated with eight reported outbreaks involving more than 450 illnesses. 

Six of these cases were Idaho residents, and most reported rearing backyard chickens.

These simple steps will help protect yourself and others from getting sick:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Never take live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.
  • Clean all contaminated surfaces frequently. This includes any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water bowls, and any items that might be brought into the home.

To learn more about the risk of human Salmonella infections from live poultry visit the CDC website: