Healthy habits can help prevent Salmonella illness when raising backyard birds

Photo courtesy: MGN

LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Health experts at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are warning Michiganders about the potential for baby poultry to carry Salmonella. A common bacteria found in the droppings of poultry, Salmonella usually doesn’t make the birds sick, but can cause illness in people.

“Washing your hands thoroughly before and after handling chicks and other poultry protects both you and your family from the risk of Salmonella, and also helps keep the birds healthy,” said MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells. “Even handling baby birds displayed in stores can result in a Salmonella infection.”

In 2017, there were 10 nationwide outbreaks of Salmonella illness linked to contact with live poultry, causing illness in 1,120 people in 48 states, including Michigan. This was the largest number of illnesses linked to contact with backyard poultry to date. Michigan reported 35 cases, nearly half involving children.

Raising backyard birds has grown in popularity over the last several years. However, certain groups have a greater chance of illness from handling live poultry or contact with areas where the birds live. Children younger than 5 years old, older adults or people with weak immune systems should not handle or touch live poultry because they are more likely to become severely ill.

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or abdominal cramps lasting four to seven days or more. Salmonella infections can be especially serious for the very young, the very old and those with weak immune systems.

Although baby poultry have special requirements for warmth and protection, they should never be housed indoors, particularly in areas where food or drink are prepared.

Follow these simple steps to help protect your family and others:
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching birds or anything in their environment. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
• Use hand sanitizer after touching birds or their environment until you can wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
• Do not kiss or snuggle birds, touch your mouth or eat or drink around live poultry.
• Do not bring live baby poultry into schools, childcare centers or nursing homes.
• Do not keep live poultry inside the house where people live, eat or sleep.
• Keep live poultry away from areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
• Clean any equipment associated with raising or caring for poultry outdoors
• Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while caring for poultry and keep those shoes outside the home.

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