While baby chicks and other baby birds are common gifts during the Easter season, increased cases of Salmonella infection are also common.
The New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Livestock Board are warning the public to use extreme caution to avoid Salmonella infection, especially if buying the birds for young children. Last year, New Mexico had 19 human cases of Salmonella related to baby chicks and ducklings. Many of the cases were young children, and there were five hospitalizations.
"While raising poultry can be a great experience, it is important to take some simple precautions to protect your children and family," said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. "Poultry can carry Salmonella germs and still appear healthy and clean. That makes it easy for people to let their guard down, and that's when they run the risk of getting Salmonella."
Early symptoms of Salmonella in people include fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain. These symptoms develop one to three days after exposure to baby chicks and their droppings. Other symptoms might include nausea, chills or headaches.
"Salmonella can contaminate a bird's body and anything in the area where they are housed or allowed to roam," said Dr. Paul Ettestad, state public health veterinarian at the Department of Health. "This means infection can occur when parents keep the baby birds inside the house and allow their small children to handle and snuggle with them or when parents don't wash their hands properly after handling the birds, indirectly giving the infection to their children."
The Department recommends that people young and old take the following preventive measures:
â?¢ 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.
â?¢ Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
â?¢ Don't snuggle or kiss baby birds.
â?¢ Don't touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live baby poultry.
â?¢ Don't let baby birds inside the house or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, dining rooms, pantries, and outdoor patios
â?¢ Don't clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry (such as cages, feed, and water containers) in the house.
â?¢ Do not let children younger than 5 years old touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
â?¢ Visit your physician if you experience abdominal pain, fever and/or diarrhea.
To learn more about Salmonella infection from live baby poultry, visit the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention website at: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/SalmonellaBabyBirds