Be aware: Live poultry can carry Salmonella

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It’s finally spring, Easter is April 16 and with that, many people might be thinking about buying chicks or ducklings as gifts or to replenish backyard poultry flocks. But in 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control saw the largest number of Salmonella illnesses related to backyard poultry ever recorded by the agency. With that in mind, it’s a good time for a reminder about the precautions to take so you and your children don’t get sick from poultry carrying Salmonella bacteria. 

What happens when a person is infected with Salmonella?

Salmonella most often causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps anywhere from 12-to-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 of contracting Salmonella from poultry?

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 baby birds. Some people, especially babies, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system can get so sick from Salmonella bacteria 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 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.

What are some precautions parents, kids and backyard poultry enthusiasts can take to avoid getting sick?

Be sure to wash your hands – and your children’s hands – with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live or roam. And don’t let kids younger than 5 handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry without adult supervision. If you raise poultry, 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 food-borne infection.

(Note: A Closer Look at Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from March 28.)

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