Dye the Easter Eggs, but Don't Handle the Chicks

Monday, March 23, 2015 | 8:31am

Those Easter baskets are often filled with candy and colorful eggs. However, there is one type of gift you should avoid during the holiday—baby chicks and ducklings.

Live poultry commonly carry Salmonella germs. When humans handle the birds, the bacteria can spread. Exposure to Salmonella commonly causes extreme abdominal upset. In severe cases, the illness can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 400 people die each year with acute salmonellosis.

Children, the elderly, and people with other health conditions are most susceptible to a severe reaction.

“Live poultry may have Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean,” Tennessee Department of Health Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD said. “Those germs can also get on cages, coops, feed and water dishes and other items where the birds live and roam and can be found on the hands, shoes and clothing of people who handle the birds or work or play around them. We recommend families leave handling of live poultry to people trained in their appropriate care.”

This is the time of year when chicks and ducklings arrive at local feed and farm stores. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Department of Health aim to educate customers on the risks of handling poultry, as well as the long-term commitment required for proper animal care.

“We're working with feed suppliers and businesses to ensure the safety of the animals and people who may come in contact with them,” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “Our goal is to support backyard flocks and youth poultry projects like the 4-H Chick Chain while also informing the consumer.”

Do not let children younger than five, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle chicks, ducklings or other live poultry. If you do come into contact with a bird, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after.