Cases of salmonella in Washington, Oregon and Idaho have been linked by public health officials to baby chicks from a Walla Walla hatchery. About a dozen people from the three states have fallen ill, reports the Tri-City Herald.

Phinney Hatchery mails about 1 million baby birds each year from Alaska to Utah. The birds also go to Tri-City-area feed stores and homes where they end up as fryers, layers or pets. "All chicks pretty much have salmonella," said Kathy Peters, part-owner of Phinney Hatchery in Walla Walla. "Just be sure to wash your hands after you handle them."

Emilio DeBess, an Oregon public health veterinarian, said some of the people who were infected didn’t handle the chicks directly but had been in rooms where the chicks were kept. He said areas can easily become contaminated from bacteria in animal wastes.

Hatchery officials are cooperating with Washington health officials to determine if anything can be done to reduce the risk of salmonella infection in their operation.