Know How to Avoid Salmonella from Live Poultry

News Release


Vermont Department of Health
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets

For Immediate Release: March 27, 2018


Media Contacts:

Vermont Department of Health

Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets


Know How to Avoid Salmonella from Live Poultry

BURLINGTON – As rural and backyard coops are prepped to welcome new baby chicks, ducklings, goslings and baby turkeys, the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets urge people to take steps to prevent Salmonella infections, especially among children.

Salmonellosis – caused by infection with Salmonella germs – is the second most commonly reported gastrointestinal illness in Vermont. Between 2011 and 2017, there were 59 reported cases of salmonellosis in Vermont associated with exposure to live poultry. More than 40 percent of those cases were in children younger than 10 years.

Baby and adult poultry may appear healthy and clean, but they can carry germs that may cause illness in people. Poultry may shed disease-causing germs in their droppings, which can then contaminate their bodies, the areas where they live and things they touch.

“People can be exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling or kissing the birds, or by touching anything in the area where the birds live and roam,” explained Natalie Kwit, DVM, the Health Department’s public health veterinarian. “Kids are at a higher risk of getting sick because their immune systems are still developing, and they are more likely to put their fingers or other contaminated items in their mouths,” said Kwit.

Infection with Salmonella typically causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. When illness is severe, it can require hospitalization. Young children, older Vermonters and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of severe illness, but anyone with poultry contact can get sick.

Interest in raising birds is growing in Vermont, and that means more people need to know how to prevent illness.

“We’ve seen a boom in the number of Vermonters who are interested in raising chickens, ducks and other poultry,” said Agency of Agriculture State Veterinarian Kristin Haas, DVM. “Whether you’re raising birds as a hobby or part of a larger agricultural practice, it’s important for the health of your family, the animals and your community to be aware of potential concerns and know how to prevent the spread of disease.”

What you can do to stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live or roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Adults should supervise children while they wash their hands to make sure they’re washing well.
  • Don’t let children under age 5 handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other live poultry.
  • Don’t kiss birds or snuggle them and touch your face or mouth.
  • Keep and care for live poultry outside the house, and don’t eat or drink in the area where birds live or roam.
  • Set aside a pair of shoes to wear while taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside the house.

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