Chick = sick: Minnesotans getting salmonella from handling baby poultry

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Hey Minnesota – keep your hands off our chicks!

They may be adorable bundles of fluff, but people in Minnesota are getting sick after handling baby chicks, Minnesota's Department of Health (MDH) revealed on Monday.

Investigators have linked nine cases of salmonella infections from the handling of baby chicks and other newly-hatched poultry from feed stores in Minnesota.

Minnesotans struck down with illness range in age from 2 months to 66 years, with the illnesses occurring from late April through mid-June.

In eight of the nine cases, the people struck down with illness have bought newly-hatched poultry this spring, and it's prompted a health warning for anyone who handles baby chicks, ducks, turkeys or pheasants.

MDH veterinarian Dr. Stacy Holzbauer says newborn chicks may carry a variety of salmonella strains, and she says the outbreak "underscores the importance of washing your hands thoroughly after handling chicks, ducklings or other birds."

"Chicks can be a great attraction for children and families this time of year, but they can also be a source of illness," she said. "That is why it is so important for people handling them to take steps to prevent infection."

Young children are particularly at risk from salmonella, being more likely to develop serious complications.

The MDH advises people not to let children younger than five handle poultry, and supervising older children to make sure they wash their hands afterwards.

Other tips include:

  • Avoid nuzzling or kissing chicks, ducklings or other poultry.
  • Do not eat or drink around poultry or their living areas.
  • Keep poultry outside and especially out of areas where food is prepared.
  • Do not wash birds' food and water dishes in the kitchen sink.

"Raising poultry can be a wonderful experience for families, but it's important to protect yourself and your kids from the germs animals can carry," Holzbauer said.

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