Minnesota health officials warn about handling chicks, young poultry

The Minnesota Department of Health has issued a warning about handling baby chicks or other young poultry.

Over the past several months there have been nine cases of salmonella in Minnesota linked to handling young birds. Department veterinarian Stacy Holzbauer said even birds that look clean can have enough bacteria on their down, feathers or feet to make a person sick.

"Essentially the birds are defecating in their own environment and so the bugs can be quite hardy outside of the intestinal tract as well," said Holzbauer. "And so wash your hands after handling the birds or anything in their environment."

The health department recommends several additional precautions:

• Do not let children younger than 5 handle poultry.
• Supervise older children when handling poultry, and make sure they wash their hands afterward.
• 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.

The young birds are typically sold at farm supply stores during the springtime.

"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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