Dont Give Your Children Baby Chicks /Ducklings as Pets Due to Possible Contamination of Salmonella Bacteria

Dont Give Your Children Baby Chicks /Ducklings as Pets Due to Possible Contamina

Food poisoning is the most common type of salmonellosis in the US. Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tract of animals and humans. They produce poison (called toxins), which can cause illness. The infection most often happens when you eat food that has not been properly prepared or stored. Food that may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria needs to be heated to a high enough temperature to destroy the toxins. If the food is not heated enough before it is eaten, it can cause illness.


Most foods naturally contain small amounts of bacteria that pose no harm to people. But when food is poorly handled, improperly cooked or inadequately stored, bacteria can multiply quickly and cause food poisoning.

We do not live in a sterile world, and many foods will contain bacteria or viruses with the potential to cause disease.Salmonella enterocolitis can range from mild to severe diarrheal illness. The infection is acquired through ingestion of contaminated food or water. Any food can become contaminated during preparation if conditions and equipment for food preparation are unsanitary.Campylobacter, salmonellae, and shigella organisms are the most common causes of bacterial diarrhea. Less common causes are Escherichia coli (commonly called E coli) and yersinial, listerial, and cryptosporidial bacteria.

Disease-causing Salmonella species have recently been re-classified into a single species, Salmonella enterica, which has numerous serovars. Salmonella Typhi causes typhoid fever. Other salmonellae are frequent causes of foodborne illness, especially from poultry and raw eggs and more generally from food that has been cooked or frozen, and not eaten straight away.

A total of 2 501 different Salmonella serotypes have been identified up to 2004. While all serotypes can cause disease in humans, they are often classified according to their adaptation to animal hosts. A few serotypes have a limited host-spectrum (affect only one or a few animal species), for example Salmonella Typhi in primates; Salmonella Dublin in cattle; and Salmonella Choleraesuis in pigs. When these strains cause disease in humans, it is often invasive and can be life-threatening. Most serotypes, however, have a broad host-spectrum. Typically, such strains cause gastroenteritis, which is often uncomplicated and does not need treatment, but can be severe in the young, the elderly and patients with weakened immunity. This group features Salmonella Enteriditis and Salmonella Typhimurium, the two most important serotypes for salmonellosis transmitted from animals to humans.

Diseases are usually spread by touching something that is infected with a virus or bacteria. For example, your child has a cold and touches his nose and then touches a countertop. The infectious virus or bacteria is now on the countertop. If you come by and touch the countertop and then touch your mouth or rub your eyes, you could get the infection. Infected fluids from the eyes, nose, and mouth that end up on people's hands are the most common way infections are spread. Hands or other objects contaminated by bowel movements are the reason for the spread of most diarrhea, as well as infectious hepatitis.

Contaminated food or water caused many epidemics in earlier times. Even today some foods frequently contain bacteria that cause diarrhea. (For example, over 50% of raw turkey or chicken contains Campylobacter or Salmonella bacteria. By contrast, only 1% of raw eggs are contaminated with Salmonella.) Ground beef may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

With Easter just 10 days away, many parents are probably thinking about giving baby chicks to their children as pets. But doing so can put kids in harm's way, because the animals may carry a serious -- and potentially fatal -- germ called salmonella, U.S. health officials warn.

Federal researchers have traced 81 infections and three outbreaks of salmonella in 2006 to the handling of baby chicks.

"This is a long-standing issue," said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, chairman of the department of preventive medicine and community health at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, in New York City. "We know that chicks and ducklings are often carriers of salmonella."

When these animals are touched by young children, the risk of fecal oral contamination is very high, Imperato said. "For most people in the United States, it is inappropriate for parents to give children baby chicks," he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 1.5 million cases of salmonella poisoning each year in the United States from a variety of causes.

"In recent years, there have been more outbreaks associated with exposure to chicks," said Dr. Nicholas Gaffga, a CDC medical epidemiologist, adding this could be due to better reporting of cases.

Reporting in the March 30 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC researchers cited three outbreaks last year, including one in Kansas where 10 children who handled baby chicks at a day-care center were infected with salmonella.

A couple of months later, 46 people in Kansas came down with the same strain of the disease after buying chicks. Eight of these people were hospitalized. Many of the people who bought the chicks wanted them as pets for their children, according to the CDC report.

The other outbreaks occurred in Michigan and in Washington state.

"The CDC recommends that children under 5 years of age do not have contact with baby birds," Gaffga said. "If older children touch baby birds, they should wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds."

In addition, clothes, tables, bathtubs, floors -- anything the bird touches -- should be considered contaminated until they are properly cleaned, Gaffga said.

Gaffga also noted that chicks that are dyed Easter colors are even less safe than un-dyed chicks. "Chicks are dyed to make them more attractive to children," he said. "Many states prohibit the sale of dyed chicks. This is to prevent them from being sold to children as pets."

Imperato said that while hand-washing can prevent the transmission of salmonella, it's not something easily monitored, especially among small children. "Parents should really avoid giving children baby chicks as pets," he said.

According to the CDC, salmonella is a bacteria that produces an infection called salmonellosis. Most persons infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness typically lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment.

But for some, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites, and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness, the CDC said.

Moreover,don't let your pet lick your child on the face or mouth. Pets (especially puppies) can transmit diarrhea, worms, and other diseases. Pets are for petting. Take care to avoid contact with the feces of family pets - especially reptiles. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling an animal and ensure that no reptiles are permitted to come into contact with an infant. Even healthy reptiles (especially turtles and iguanas) are not appropriate pets for small children and should not be in the same house as an infant.

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