Health Department, Ag and Markets Stress Caution with Baby Poultry for Easter

ALBANY, April 4, 2007 - With Easter approaching, the New York State Department of Health and Department of Agriculture and Markets are advising people not to give live baby poultry as Easter gifts due to the danger of Salmonella.

Baby poultry, including chicks, ducklings, goslings and baby turkeys, which are commonly given as gifts or put on display, can be infected with Salmonella, a type of bacteria that can spread to humans and cause a serious disease called salmonellosis.

Salmonella bacteria can be carried in the intestinal tracts of baby poultry without causing them to be ill. However, the bacteria are passed in the feces causing environmental contamination. People may be infected by handling the baby poultry or contaminated surfaces, including feathers and beak. People may experience diarrhea, fever and stomach pains one to three days after becoming infected.

While anyone exposed to Salmonella can get salmonellosis, it is diagnosed more often in infants and children. Young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised are most likely to develop severe infections and be hospitalized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported outbreaks of human salmonellosis in Michigan, Nebraska, and Oregon associated with baby poultry. Many of the ill people had purchased the birds from distributors such as agricultural feed stores.

New York State Agricultural and Markets Law prohibits the sale of chicks, ducklings or other baby fowl under the ages of two months in quantities less than six. It is also illegal to sell baby poultry that has been dyed or colored.

The Health Department and the Department of Agriculture and Markets want the public to be aware of the potential health risks associated with young poultry and the need for humane care of chicks and ducklings. To reduce the risk of illness, people should:

  • Avoid giving live chicks, ducklings and other poultry as gifts at Easter or any other times of year;
  • Thoroughly wash their hands with warm soap and water after handling live poultry or touching anything else that has been in contact with baby poultry;
  • Avoid contact with bird feces;
  • Prevent children under the age of 5 years from handling or kissing chicks or other baby birds;
  • Refrain from eating or drinking while interacting with birds or their environment;
  • Keep the bird area separate from areas where food and drink are prepared or consumed;
  • Discuss the risks of animal contact with your or your child's physician if you or your child is immunocompromised.

Additional information about Salmonella can be found on the Department's Web site at www.health.ny.gov or on the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov.