If you are planning to add a few feathered friends to your household this spring, Vermont’s health and agriculture officials want you to be sure to know how to avoid getting sick from salmonella – a risk when handling chicks, ducklings, goslings or baby turkeys.
Even though baby and adult poultry may appear clean and healthy, they can carry germs. Poultry shed germs in their droppings, which contaminate the areas where they live, their bodies, and the things they touch.
“Baby birds are cute, but people can get Salmonella by holding, cuddling or kissing the birds, or by touching items in the area where the birds live and roam,” said Natalie Kwit, DVM, Vermont’s public health veterinarian. “It’s important to wash your hands immediately after touching birds or anything in their environment,” said Kwit.
Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and stomach cramps for about four to seven days. Certain groups have a greater chance of getting sick from handling live poultry, such as children younger than 5 years old, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. However, anyone who comes into contact with poultry can get sick.
Interest in raising birds is growing in Vermont, and spring is the season when people buy baby poultry for their farming and backyard flocks. Children, in particular, are drawn to them and are at greater risk of illness.
“Raising chickens, ducks and other poultry is a fun and rewarding way to establish a sustainable backyard food source,” said Kristin Haas, DVM, state veterinarian with the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. “Whether you’re raising birds as a hobby or part of a larger agricultural practice, knowing how to prevent the spread of disease is important to protecting your family, animals and your community.”
More than 330 people in 47 states, including Vermont, were sickened by Salmonella after having contact with live poultry in 2018. Of those, 21% were children younger than 5.
Steps you can take to stay healthy:
Wash your hands with soap and water right after touching live poultry or any objects in the area where they live or roam. Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
Do not let children younger than age 5 handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry.
Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your face, or eat or drink around live poultry or in the areas where they are kept.
Do not keep live poultry inside the house where people live, eat or sleep.
Regularly wash materials such as cages, water bottles and food containers. Always clean these items outdoors.
Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep the shoes outside the house.
Call your doctor if you get sick.