Health Officials Caution of Salmonella Risk from Baby Poultry

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 26, 2021) – Cases of Salmonella infection increase each year around Easter time when stores begin putting baby poultry (chicks and ducklings) on display, or when they’re given as gifts.

Salmonella are bacteria that make people sick. American scientist Dr. Daniel E. Salmon discovered Salmonella bacteria in 1885. Most people with Salmonella infection have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States every year. Young children exposed to baby birds are at greatest risk, accounting for approximately 24 percent of those who became ill with Salmonella in 2020.

According to Dr. LeMac’ Morris, state public health veterinarian at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), even birds that look healthy and clean can transmit Salmonella. Before interacting with baby chicks and ducklings in stores or backyard poultry, OSDH suggests the following safety tips:

  • Never eat, drink or put anything in your mouth while handling poultry.
  • Wash hands with soap and water right after handling any types of birds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 62 percent ethyl alcohol.
  • Do not wash animal food and water dishes from a backyard poultry flock in the kitchen sink.
  • Do not let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without supervision. Children younger than 5 years of age are more likely to get sick from exposure to germs like Salmonella.

Symptoms usually begin six hours to six days after infection and last four to seven days. However, some people do not develop symptoms for several weeks after infection and others experience symptoms for several weeks. Salmonella strains sometimes cause infection in urine, blood, bones, joints, or the nervous system (spinal fluid and brain), and can cause severe disease.

Pregnant women, older adults and people with a weakened immune system should be aware they are also at greater risk of illness from germs animals may carry and should follow safe handling precautions.

For more information about Salmonella, please visit or call OSDH Acute Disease Service (405) 271-4060.

Salmonella Fact Sheet


Rob Crissinger
[email protected]

The Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association is not responsible for information contained in this press release. Please contact the author or submitting organization for further information, requests or questions.