Easter is coming up quickly, and with that holiday and the fact that it’s spring, many of us may be thinking about buying chicks or ducklings for gifts or to replenish backyard flocks. It’s important to remember that all poultry commonly carry Salmonella bacteria and to take precautions so you and your family don’t get sick.
What happens when a person is infected with Salmonella?
Salmonella most often causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps anywhere from 12-72 hours after infection. An infected person can expect to be sick for four to seven days. If you think you or a loved one has a Salmonella infection, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Who is most at risk?
Children are more likely to get sick because of their developing immune systems – and because they are much more likely to snuggle or kiss the chicks or put their fingers in their mouths after touching the baby birds. Some people, especially babies, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system can get so sick from Salmonella that they require hospitalization because the infection may become life-threatening.
Do all chickens and ducks carry the bacteria?
It’s common for all kinds of poultry to carry the bacteria. Birds with the infection generally don’t show any signs, so you can’t tell which are carrying the bacteria just by looking. They carry the germs in their droppings, on their feathers, feet and beaks and transfer them to anything they touch, potentially contaminating their pens, bowls, and anything else that is soiled. It’s best to assume that any birds you handle might be shedding Salmonella and take precautions to protect yourself and your family.
If I raise chickens or ducks for eggs, it sounds like the bacteria will be everywhere. How can I avoid it?
If you take precautions, you can avoid getting sick. Anytime you handle live poultry, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you touch anything else, especially toys and other things your children might play with or put into their mouths. Change your shoes after you’ve walked in the coop and before you go into your house. Leave the birds outside, and avoid eating and drinking around them. You also should regularly clean all the equipment you use to care for the birds, including cages and food and water bowls. If you are collecting their eggs, always make sure they are thoroughly cooked, to avoid a foodborne infection.
- More on zoonotic diseases, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/zoonotic/gi/index.html
- Signs and symptoms: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/live-poultry-05-14/signs-symptoms.html
- More on Salmonella, from CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/
This is a transcript of A Closer Look At Your Health, which airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. Join us!
– Niki Forbing-Orr, PIO