Chicks and children

Young children can contract salmonella from handling small chicks and ducklings. Good handwashing can significantly reduce the possibility of this happening.

Spring is here and so are the cute little chicks at the local farm stores. Some people like to simply go in and look at the adorable, feathery chicks and ducklings, some purchase them for their backyard flock and some purchase them for gifts to children. Michigan State University Extension encourages people to reconsider giving chicks to children as gifts unless they will become part of the backyard flock. Those sweet tiny chicks grow up quickly and become chickens.

As with all animals, those delightful chicks need to be handled with care, not only for the protection of the person handling the tiny, soft chicks but for the protection of the chicks as well.

According to a Tractor Supply Company store in Jonesville, Mich., the corporate office requires the chicks that are in their stores to be penned. This is for the protection of the chicks and the customers. Chicks can die from over handling and mishandling by customers, both children and adults. Then there is the possible danger that handling baby poultry can be a health risk, especially to children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, mail-order hatcheries, feed stores, and others that sell or display chicks, ducklings and other poultry should provide health-related information to owners and potential purchasers. This should include information about the risk of acquiring salmonella from contact with the chicks. It is also recommended that stores have signs that customers are to wash their hands after handling the chicks to help prevent the spread of salmonella.

Reputable hatcheries do their best to control and prevent salmonella in their chicks. Fewer than 20 hatcheries in the United States provide the majority of baby poultry sold in agricultural feed stores in the nation.

Children can get salmonella by holding or kissing the tiny birds. They can also contract salmonella by touching the cages, feed and water bowls. Younger children are more likely to get salmonella because their immune systems are not yet completely developed, and as we all know younger children are also more likely to put their fingers or other items into their mouths. Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal cramps, which can last from one to seven days.

Very few things in life are completely risk-free. There are many health risks that children face each day. One simple thing like washing hands after handling the chicks is easy, doable and sensible. The transmission of salmonella from chicks to humans can be essentially eliminated through careful handwashing with soap and water.

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