Booster Shots

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Don't mix kids, chicks

January 22, 2009 | 12:14 pm

In the midst of a national outbreak of salmonella linked to peanut products comes a timely reminder from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that handling baby chicks and other live poultry can also cause bacterial illnesses.

ChickThe CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report recounts two multistate outbreaks of salmonella infections associated with live poultry that took place in 2007.

In one, 65 people in Minnesota and North Dakota became ill with diarrhea and bloody diarrhea, eight of whom were hospitalized. State health department investigations traced the source of the bacteria to handling live poultry at a farm, an agricultural feed store and a fair.

Another, unrelated outbreak that year infected 64 patients in 23 states, with exposure to live poultry at farms, feed stores, a classroom and a petting zoo. Some of those sickened had bought chicks from the feed store or by mail order from a hatchery to raise in backyards.

Poultry is a known reservoir for the bacteria (so are turtles, lizards and snakes), and the CDC advises parents not to give chicks to young children as gifts at Easter or other times, or to let children younger than 5 handle baby chicks or other poultry. Everyone else, the CDC says, should wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after touching live poultry or surfaces in contact with live poultry.

-- Mary Engel