NM Health Department, Livestock Board warn of salmonella risk from 'Easter' animals

Posted at: 03/19/2013 1:40 PM
By: KOB.com staff

The New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Livestock Board say families who who plan to give baby chicks or other baby birds to their children this Easter should use extreme caution to avoid Salmonella infection.

In the last seven years, New Mexico has had 19 human cases of Salmonella related to baby chicks/ducklings.

Many of the cases were in young children.

“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.”

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 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 children.”

The Department recommends that people young and old take the following preventive measures:

• 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.

• Don’t touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live baby poultry.

• 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

• 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.

• Do not let children younger than 5 years old touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.

• 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/