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Easter chicks and ducklings carry risk of Salmonella

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday, March 29, 2012
CONTACT:  Lon Kightlinger, (605) 773-3737 


Easter chicks and ducklings carry risk of Salmonella

PIERRE, S.D. – Parents should think twice about giving their kids baby chicks or ducklings for Easter, says a state health official. “Nationally, outbreaks of salmonellosis have been linked to exposure with baby chicks and ducks and we see cases here in South Dakota every year as well,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the Department of Health.


Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection and one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis. South Dakota reported 162 cases in 2011.


The bacteria are widely distributed in the food chain and environment and often contaminate raw meats, eggs, unpasteurized milk and cheese products. Poultry, swine, cattle, rodents, songbirds, and pets such as iguanas, tortoises, turtles, terrapins, chicks, dogs, and cats, as well as humans, can carry the bacteria.


Children are especially susceptible because they frequently put their fingers into their mouths and because their immune systems are still developing. Pregnant women, the elderly, people with HIV/AIDS and other immunocompromised individuals are also at higher risk.


Symptoms may include mild or severe diarrhea, fever and occasionally vomiting. Bloodstream infections can be quite serious, particularly in the very young or elderly.


Take the following precautions to prevent salmonella infection:

  • Don’t let kids under 5 handle poultry or items contaminated by poultry. Other high risk groups should also avoid handling poultry or contaminated items.
  • Thoroughly wash hands after handling poultry or their droppings.
  • Don’t eat or drink around poultry or their living areas.
  • Don’t wash food or water dishes for poultry in the kitchen sink.
  • Don’t let poultry live inside your home.


For more about the risk of salmonellosis from poultry see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/healthypets/easter_chicks.htm. Learn more about Salmonellosis at http://doh.sd.gov/DiseaseFacts/salmonellosis.aspx.