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Saturday, April 4


Don't get me wrong... I think chickens are OK and I loooove fresh eggs. If I didn't work full time and we had a little more space, I'd probably have my own. Raising chickens is a lot of work and responsibility and work. And it's all very worth it. At the very least I hope my friends that are first-time chicken raisers are practicing good hand-washing every time they handle a chick... and keeping their coops and pens clean.

I don't think any animal should be given as a gift for birthdays or holidays... especially cute, cuddly baby chicks for Easter. Anna Johnson at Deschutes County sent this to me, and it's just one of the many reasons why you shouldn't give the kids a chick in their Easter basket...

As spring and the Easter holiday approach, local and state health officials warn of the potential Salmonella bacteria chicks, ducklings and other young fowl can carry.

According to the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), these animals may not be appropriate as pets for children younger than five or for persons with weakened immune systems.

DHS also states that Salmonella poisoning from baby poultry purchased as pets or for backyard flocks represents an ongoing public health concern and causes multiple hospitalizations each year. Two cases have been identified in Oregon over the past few weeks; both had contact with young poultry. Both patients are recovering.

Many chicks carry Salmonella bacteria in their intestinal tract and intermittently or continuously shed these bacteria in their feces. Salmonella bacteria often may not cause any illness in chicks, but can cause serious illness in people.

Salmonella bacteria are easily spread from chicks to humans. Humans may become infected when they place their hands on objects that have been in contact with the stool of chicks, and then touch food that they eat. For Salmonella bacteria to spread from chicks to humans, the bacteria must be ingested. Therefore, simply touching or holding a chick will not result in spread of bacteria unless something contaminated with chick feces or the chick itself is placed in the mouth.

Most Salmonella infections in humans result in a mild, self-limiting illness characterized by diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. However, the infection can spread to the bloodstream, bone marrow or nervous system, leading to severe and sometimes fatal illness. Such severe infections are more likely to occur in infants and in individuals whose immune system is compromised (for instance, bone marrow transplant recipients, people with diabetes mellitus or those infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, and chemotherapy patients).

Fortunately, the spread of Salmonella bacteria from chicks to humans can
be easily prevented by using the following routine precautions:
  • Always wash your hands with hot, soapy water after handling chicks, chick cages and equipment, and the stool of chicks.

  • Keep chicks penned in outside buildings. Always wash your hands after coming into contact with any area where chicks are kept.

  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling chicks, chick cages, or chick equipment. Do not kiss chicks or share food or drink with them.

  • Children less than five years of age should avoid contact with chicks. Children should be supervised when they are handling chicks to ensure that they do not place their hands, or objects that a chick has contacted, in their mouths. Chicks should not be kept in childcare centers.

  • Immune-compromised people should avoid contact with chicks.

  • Follow instructions from your veterinarian concerning proper diet and environment for your chick(s). Healthy chicks living in proper environments are less likely to shed Salmonella bacteria.

This information is not meant to discourage chick or poultry ownership. With a few exceptions (for example, infants or immune-compromised individuals), most people have a low risk of acquiring Salmonella from chicks. This risk, however, can be reduced even further by following simple precautions. Purchasers of chicks should be aware of the methods for reducing their risk of acquiring Salmonella bacteria from poultry.

For more information about the risk of Salmonella illness, please call Deschutes County Health Services at 322-7400.

Anna M. Johnson
Public Communications Coordinator
(541) 330-4640 office
(541) 280-5263 cell
(541) 385-3202 fax
1300 NW Wall Street, Ste. 200
Bend, OR 97701

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