The New York State Consumer Protection Board is warning parents that bringing home baby chicks or ducklings this Easter could expose their children to salmonella poisoning.

Salmonella bacteria, microscopic creatures that are transmitted from the feces of animals or people to other animals or people, are a common cause of food-borne illness. People who have direct contact with animals that carry the bacteria are also susceptible to catching salmonella.

These animals include reptiles such as turtles, lizards, and snakes, as well as birds, including baby chicks and ducklings, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and ferrets.

"An Easter tradition in some families is to give a chick to a child. While the chick is cute and fluffy, it may be carrying bacteria that can gravely sicken a child," said CPB Chairman and Executive Director Teresa A. Santiago.

New York State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H., said, "No one can deny that baby chicks, ducklings and bunnies are appealing, especially to children. However, it is important for families to realize that these nontraditional pets can be a source of disease. Thorough hand-washing is a must after touching or petting these animals and it may be best to avoid contact with them altogether."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that children are more likely to contract salmonella than other people, as they are less likely to wash their hands after handling animals and have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults.
There is no vaccine to prevent salmonella, but there are steps people can take to decrease their chances of catching it.

To reduce the risk of contacting salmonella from an animal, those who touch a chick, duckling, or other pet that could transmit the bacteria should wash their hands immediately after contact. Avoid any contact with feces from animals. People are also advised to wash their hands after touching any surface the animal had contact with.