It's salmonella season, but cute baby chicks and ducklings are hardly the only source of the bacteria that sickens more than 1 million people annually.
Unless you want to risk giving the kids or grandchildren a side of salmonella with their Easter baskets, you may want to skip the addition of a cute baby chick.
“The time of year has arrived for baby chicks and ducklings to hatch out into the world, bringing with them annual warnings to help protect against the risk of salmonella infection,” Food Safety News reports.
The article points out that several outbreaks of salmonella from newborn birds typically sicken thousands of Americans annually. More than 1,200 laboratory-confirmed cases of salmonella have been linked to chicks and ducklings in just the past three years, and thousands more may have been unreported.
Last year, a salmonella outbreak linked to live poultry from backyard flocks affected 363 people across 43 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Live baby poultry can carry salmonella and still look healthy, but can spread the germs to people. Children can be exposed to salmonella by holding, cuddling or kissing the birds and by touching things where the bird lives, such as cages or feed and water bowls,” the CDC warns.
Young kids are at greater risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing. They also are more likely to put their fingers or other items into their mouths, the CDC notes.
Experts urge young children, elderly adults and anyone with a compromised immune system to avoid contact with live birds as well as reptiles. And everyone should thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water after handling such animals.
Of course, live poultry aren’t the only transmitters of salmonella, bacteria that can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps.
Last year alone, mechanically separated chicken meat as well as cucumbers, bean sprouts, nut butters, raw cashew cheese and organic sprouted chia powder were sources of outbreaks, not to mention pet reptiles called “bearded dragons,” according to the CDC.
The federal agency estimates that salmonella causes a total of 1.2 million illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths in the U.S. each year.