Baby Chicks are Fun, Fluffy, and Full of…Bacteria?

Apr 14, 2017

When I was a kid, Easter in my family meant dyeing eggs, decorating eggs, hunting for eggs, and then—my favorite part—eating eggs! It wasn’t until later in life when I learned that live baby chicks are just as much a part of some people’s Easter traditions as eggs are a part of mine.

Some families go to local farms to play with the baby chicks and take Easter photos with them. And some children are even surprised with their own baby chicks for Easter (usually by an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, because no parent I know would sign themselves up for that job).

As cute as those baby chicks are, they can carry the same germs as their deceased relatives, raw poultry. That’s right – Salmonella.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can make people sick with symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Unfortunately, there are not many options in the way of treating Salmonella infections.

Most people are aware that Salmonella is found on raw poultry, like chicken, duck, and turkey. But Salmonella can also be carried on live poultry, including that cute little chick you want your daughter to take a picture with and the chickens your neighbor has in his backyard.

In 2016, there were 8 Salmonella outbreaks across 48 states – “the largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry ever recorded,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost one-third of people in the outbreaks were children less than 5 years old.

Not to worry. You and your tinier family members can still enjoy the chicks and ducklings this Easter while reducing your chances of getting sick. Just follow these simple tips:

  1. Do not allow live poultry in the house. This includes chicks, chickens, ducklings, and ducks.
  2. Children younger than 5 years old should not touch or handle live poultry without an adult.
  3. If you or your children are touching or handling live poultry, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after. Do not touch your face or mouth.

While baby chicks are super cute and awfully fun to play with, they can carry germs that can make you and your children ill. People who suffered from Salmonella infections during the 2016 outbreaks reported getting live poultry for fun, to keep as pets, or to give as Easter gifts.

Practicing good hygiene like keeping your home free of Salmonella and washing your hands should help you ensure your family has a healthy and happy Easter!


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