Easter brings to mind brightly colored eggs, baskets full of candy, and large chocolate bunnies. Traditions associated with the Easter season are enjoyable for children and adults alike. However, some Easter traditions are of particular concern for children, placing them at risk for serious illness.

Baby animals, including baby chicks and ducks, are sometimes given as gifts or put on display at this time. Because they are so soft and cute, many people do not realize the potential danger baby chicks and ducklings can be to small children. Young birds often carry harmful bacteria called Salmonella. Each spring, some children become infected with Salmonella after receiving a baby chick or duckling for Easter.

Harmful bacteria such as salmonella are carried in the chick’s and duckling’s intestine contaminates their environment and the entire surface of the animal. 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.

At this time, the federal government has no restrictions concerning the sale of chicks and ducklings. State governments have recognized the risk of Salmonella to young children and have passed restrictions for pet stores and local agencies that prohibit the sale of baby chicks around Easter.