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Little Fluffy Baby Chicks Spread Deadly Intestinal Infection

Posted May 30 2012 6:02pm

Sorry for the headline, but that was the first thing I thought of when reading this paper just published in the New England Journal of Medicine:

In this report, we describe a prolonged and ongoing multistate outbreak of human salmonella infections primarily affecting young children and linked to contact with live young poultry from a single mail-order hatchery… Because only a portion of salmonella infections are laboratory confirmed, it is likely that thousands of additional unreported infections occurred in association with this outbreak.

To be fair, no one actually died from this outbreak (though 36 patients were hospitalized, most of them 5 years old or younger).

Regardless — it’s hard to imagine baby chicks as vectors for anything, let alone something as unsanitary as salmonella. They’re so cute!

But when you think about it for even a few seconds, why should they be any cleaner than grown-up chickens — which are decidedly not clean.

So the next time you send the kids out to the backyard flock to check for fresh eggs, and they might stop on the way to play with the chicks, pay attention to these wise folks from the CDC, who warn:

Consumers wishing to reduce their risk of illness should practice meticulous hand hygiene and encourage this behavior in children. High-risk groups, including children younger than 5 yearsof age, elderly persons, and immunocompromised persons, should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.

So add this to the long (and growing) list of high-risk behaviors.

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