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Press Release

March 7, 2012

Andrea Kincaid


Giving Safe Easter Gifts

Parents Beware of Giving Baby Chicks or Ducklings as Easter Gifts

California, MO- Easter usually makes us think of brightly colored eggs, baskets full of treats and large chocolate bunnies. These traditions can be safe and enjoyable for kids and adults. However, the Easter tradition of giving baby chicks and ducklings as gifts to young children can lead to serious illness. Because they are so soft and cute, many people do not consider that young birds often carry harmful bacteria called Salmonella. Every spring, some children become infected with Salmonella after receiving a baby chick or duckling for Easter.

Many chicks and young birds carry harmful Salmonella in their feces, which contaminates their environment and the entire surface of the animal. The birds often do not look dirty but may have feces on their feathers and beaks – places where children are likely to touch. Salmonella can be spread when children put their fingers and other things contaminated with chick feces into their mouths. It is difficult to know if chicks are carrying Salmonella because they will not usually show signs of illness. Children can be exposed to the bacteria by simply holding, cuddling or kissing the birds. Children are most susceptible to infection because they are more likely than others to put their fingers into their mouths and because their immune systems are still developing. Others at increased risk include persons with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, the elderly and other immunocompromised persons.

Salmonellosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Salmonella. Most people have diarrhea, fever and stomach pain that starts one to three days after they ingest the bacteria. These symptoms usually resolve after one week. Other symptoms might include nausea, chills, headaches or general achy feeling. Persons with these symptoms should drink plenty of fluids. Young children, the elderly and other immunocompromised persons may have a more severe infection. Occasionally, infections are so severe that people have to see a doctor or be hospitalized.

The Moniteau County Health Center offers the following recommendations:

For more information, please contact the Moniteau County Health Center at 573-796-3412 or visit