David Morgan
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Risk of Human Salmonella Infections Return This Easter Season

March 26, 2014 - Foodborne Diseases - Awareness

Welcome to Spring! The Spring season officially began last Thursday, but if you’ve been paying attention to store shelves anywhere you shop, you’ll see retailers have already had the first Spring holiday on their mind for weeks: Easter Sunday.

Sure, all you may be needing is a loaf of bread or some aspirin, but I bet before you get to the loaves or pills, you’re going to have to walk by hundreds of Easter-related items to get to them. Out of all the Easter gifts you can buy for you or your family, the New Mexico Department of Health has a warning for you: stay be cautious of anything that peeps, chirps or quacks.

I don’t mean toys; I mean the real thing. Each spring, New Mexico children become infected with Salmonella, a germ that is often found on live baby poultry, such as chicks, ducklings, goslings, and even baby turkeys. It can make a person sick.

Last year, New Mexico had 19 human cases of Salmonella related to baby chicks and ducklings. Many of the cases were in young children, and there were 5 hospitalizations.

Children are particularly vulnerable because, let’s face it, baby animals are cute, and when they look healthy and clean it’s easy for kids, even their parents, to let their guard down.

Young children are especially at risk for getting sick because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.

“Salmonella can contaminate a bird’s body and anything in the area where they are housed or allowed to roam,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, state public health veterinarian at the Department of Health. “This means infection can occur when parents keep the baby birds inside the house and allow their small children to handle and snuggle with them or when parents don’t wash their hands properly after handling the birds, indirectly giving the infection to their children.”

Early symptoms of Salmonella in people include fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain. These symptoms develop one to three days after exposure to baby chicks and their droppings. Other symptoms might include nausea, chills or headaches.

So does getting kids a cute animal outweigh the risk? Not according to the experts.

“While there are many legitimate reasons to purchase baby chicks to raise for food, we want to discourage families from buying baby chicks as pets for children under the age of 5 years,” Ettestad said.

Young or old, the Department of Health recommends people follow some do’s and don’ts:

DO:

DON’T:

Learn more about the Risk of Human Salmonella Infections from Baby Poultry by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

You can also find Salmonella information in the Foodborne Diseases section of our website.


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