The Texas County Health Department encourages the public to think about health and safety when it comes to live animals this Easter.
Baby animals, including baby chicks and ducklings, are sometimes given as gifts or put on display at this time of the year. Because they are so soft and cute, many people do not realize the potential danger baby birds, such as chicks and ducklings, can be to small children, the health department said. Young birds often carry salmonella, a harmful bacteria. A child who pets, holds, hugs or kisses the birds may be exposed to the bacteria and become seriously ill.
Children under five are most at risk for infection from salmonella because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than older children or adults to put their fingers in their mouths. Children under five should not handle chicks and ducklings. Other people at increased risk for developing salmonella are pregnant women, senior adults and people with suppressed immune systems.
The infection caused by salmonella usually leads to diarrhea, fever and stomach pain about 1 to 3 days after the bacteria is ingested. Other symptoms might be nausea, chills, headache or general achy feeling. Young children, elderly and other immunocompromised persons may develop more severe infections.
To keep Easter baskets safe and healthy, the health department suggests these alternatives:
–Give stuffed toys as gifts instead of live animals.
–Do not let children under 5 handle baby chicks or other young birds or the packaging or pen they have been in.
–Supervise older children who touch live animals, and be sure they wash their hands immediately afterwards with soap and water.
–If toys, blankets, pacifiers or other objects come in contact with the birds or their habitat, wash the items with warm, soapy water before returning them to children.
–Do not eat or drink while interacting with the birds.
–Keep birds away from areas where food or drink are prepared or served.
For more information, contact the Texas County Health Department at 417-967-4131 or http://texas.lphamo.org.