Thursday, March, 31, Pueblo, CO – Health Officials at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment encouraged residents to stay healthy while caring for backyard chicks and duckling flocks.

“Live poultry, such as chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys, can carry harmful germs including Salmonella and Campylobacter,” explained Vicki Carlton, program manager at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. Carlton added, “These germs generally do not make the birds sick, but they can make people very ill.” 

Salmonella and Campylobacter are often found in poultry droppings (poop). The germs can get on the birds’ feathers, beaks, and feet, even though they may look clean. Cages, coops, food and water dishes, hay, and the soil where birds live, and roam will frequently have the germs too.

Children, the elderly, or anyone with a weak immune system are at a higher risk of becoming sick. People are most likely to get sick if they care for the birds, then put their hands near their mouth (or eat) without washing their hands first. Young children often place items in their mouths, or suck on their fingers. Young children also snuggle with and kiss baby birds. These behaviors make it even easier to become ill.

People who become sick with Salmonella or Campylobacter may experience diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and stomach cramps. While symptoms can be quite severe, they usually go away on their own without treatment; however, it is important to stay home from work, school, or daycare until symptoms resolve without the use of medication.  Call your healthcare provider if symptoms do not go away or worsen.

Here are a few ways to protect yourself: 

  • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after caring for birds or after touching anything in an area where poultry live or roam. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Do not allow children younger than five years old to touch poultry. Supervise hand washing for all children to make sure hands get washed correctly.
  • Do not let anyone kiss/snuggle with the birds.
  • Restrict anyone from eating and drinking where birds live or roam.
  • Keep live poultry outside of the home.
  • Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside of the house.
  • Clean all equipment that birds use (cages, food or water dishes, etc.) outdoors.  
  • Use a bottle of dish soap and a commercial disinfectant, dedicated to this purpose, for cleaning poultry enclosures and equipment.

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