Be aware and take precautions: Backyard poultry can carry Salmonella

SalmonellaPoultry_456pxSpring is a great time to replenish your backyard poultry flocks. Keeping backyard poultry can be a great experience for you and your family, and whether you are thinking about buying your first chick or are an experienced backyard poultry enthusiast, you should be aware of the risks of keeping poultry so you know how to keep yourself and your family from getting sick.

What happens when a person is infected with Salmonella?

Salmonella most often causes diarrhea, fever, vomiting, 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?

Babies, the elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system can get so sick from Salmonella bacteria that they must be hospitalized. Children are likely to get sick for several reasons: their immune systems are still developing, and they are much more likely to snuggle or kiss the chicks and put their fingers in their mouths after touching the birds.

Do all chickens and ducks carry the bacteria?

It’s common for all kinds of poultry to carry the Salmonella bacteria. Birds generally don’t show any signs of infection, so you can’t visibly tell which ones are carrying the disease. They carry the germs in their droppings, on their feathers, feet and beaks, and transfer them to anything they touch, including everything in their pens. It’s best to assume you can get Salmonella from any birds you handle and take precautions.

What are some precautions to stay safe?

First and foremost, 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. Children younger than 5 should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without adult supervision.

Anything else?

If you raise poultry, change your shoes after you’ve walked in the coop and before you go into your house so you don’t track anything in. Chickens and ducks should always stay outside and not come into your home, and you should avoid eating and drinking around them. You also should regularly clean all the equipment you use to care for them.

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