The New Mexico Department of Health has advised parents against purchasing chicks or ducklings to give as gifts to children during Easter. They can carry Salmonella and 15 cases have occurred in the state in the last four years related to chicks. Most of the cases were in young children.
Baby poultry can carry Salmonella without appearing sick so children who hold, cuddle or kiss them can be exposed without anyone knowing. They also can exposed by touching cages, and bowls for feeding and drinking. Because children tend to put fingers in their mouths or touch their mouths, and due to their developing immune systems they are more susceptible to Salmonella. Live poultry can have the bacteria in their droppings feathers, feet and beaks.
Salmonella causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and/or abdominal cramps. It can also result in hospitalization, and even death. In 2010, there were over 8,200 infections from Salmonella in the United States, according to CDC. Twenty-nine deaths from Salmonella were documented by CDC in the same year.
CDC says children under five years of age should not be allowed to touch live poultry, including babies such as chicks and goslings, to prevent Salmonella exposure. They also say live baby poultry should not be allowed indoors, especially in areas where food is prepared or eaten.
Such guidelines may seem very harsh to some people. However, the purchasing of live baby animals is typically associated with strong emotion and less rational thought, resulting in impulse purchases. These purchases might turn out to be very poor decisions if they wind up causing illness. No parent wants to increase the chance of making their child sick, but emotion often clouds judgement, and the practice of buying live baby poultry at Easter is one which needs to be re-examined.
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