Bloomberg News 03-29-07 Don't Buy Easter Chicks, U.S. Says, Citing Salmonella (Update2)

Bloomberg News
Don't Buy Easter Chicks, U.S. Says, Citing Salmonella (Update2)
By Elizabeth Lopatto
March 29 (Bloomberg) -- People who buy baby chicks for their children for Easter
may also be carrying a dangerous visitor home -- salmonella, which causes
diarrhea, fever and stomach pain.
Salmonella outbreaks in Michigan, Nebraska and Oregon were tied to baby
chicks in a study published today in the Centers for Disease Control's Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Report. The Nebraska outbreak, which involved children in
a daycare center, occurred when a parent brought in chicks.
Baby birds, including chicks, ducklings, goslings and turkey, have long been
linked to salmonella outbreaks. The bacteria from the chicks' intestines
contaminate the animals' environments and feathers. Handling the chicks can
pass the disease, which infects an estimated 1.4 million people in the U.S.
annually, to humans.
``Not everybody realizes that baby chicks can have salmonella,'' said Radford
Davis, an associate professor of public health at Iowa State University in
Ames, in a telephone interview today. He was not affiliated with the report.
``When you take into account old folks, young folks, people on chemotherapy, or
receiving an organ transplant--that's about twenty percent of the U.S. population
at elevated risk.''
``Children can be exposed to bacteria by simply holding, cuddling, or kissing the
birds,'' according to a CDC web site. ``Persons who purchase baby poultry
remain unaware that contact with these birds put them and others'' at risk for
getting sick from salmonella, the authors of the paper said.
`Easter Special'
A box of 15-day-old chickens, not sorted by sex, costs between $30 and $34.50
at Ohio-based Mt. Healthy Hatcheries, Inc. Their ``Easter Special'' of six
ducklings with a feeder, waterer, heat lamp, heat bulb, five pounds of feed and a
vitamin pack costs $75.00, according to their Web site.
In the Nebraska outbreak, which occurred in May 2006, three of four children
who tested positive for salmonella were confirmed to have handled baby chicks.
The fourth child had opportunity to do so, though it was not clear whether there
was direct contact, the CDC report said.
The Michigan outbreak was May, 2006, and involved 12 patients. In Oregon, four
patients were infected with salmonella in March and May, 2006.
``Especially under the age of five, kids put their fingers in their mouths, don't
wash their hands after they touch things, and their immune systems are not as
fully primed as adults','' putting them at elevated risk for salmonella infection,
Davis said.
Most at Risk
Salmonella infection caused ``thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of
deaths,'' according to an editorial note that accompanied the paper. Young
children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are at risk
for the most severe infections.
The CDC recommends that no one purchase live animals as Easter gifts.
Further, children under age five shouldn't be allowed to handle any live young
birds. Should children touch a baby bird or its environment, the CDC
recommends that they wash their hands immediately.
To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at
[email protected]