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Easter chicks, turtles bring salmonella dangers

MGN Online
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 6:33pm

With Easter right around the corner, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health is urging residents to avoid purchasing chicks, ducklings, and turtles as pets for their children. Contact with live poultry and reptiles can be a source of human Salmonella infections. Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized and the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites. This can sometimes lead to death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

“We have already seen outbreaks of Salmonella this year in the U.S.” said Robert Resendes, Public Health Director. “What is worse is that the disease is often more severe in the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems,” he said.

Salmonella germs are shed in the droppings of reptiles, amphibians, and poultry. These germs can easily contaminate animals’ bodies and the water in tanks or aquariums where these animals live, which can spread to people. Live baby poultry can carry Salmonella and still look healthy. Children can be exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds and by touching things where the bird lives. Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.

It is also important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the sale and distribution of turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches since 1975. Anyone who would like to report the illegal sale of these turtles may contact the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department at (915) 834-7050.

The following recommendations regarding turtles come from the CDC:

  • Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores, or other sources.
  • Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.
  • Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.
  • ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

These are the CDCs recommendations regarding live poultry:

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live baby poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available.
  • Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers.
  • Don’t let children younger than 5 years of age, older adults, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.
  • Don't snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live baby poultry.
  • Don't let live baby poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
  • Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.
  • Don't give live baby poultry as gifts to young children.

The Mission of the Department of Public Health is to provide research and evaluation, prevention, intervention, and mobilization services to the people
of El Paso so they can be healthy, productive, safe and secure. For more information on the programs and services offered by the Department of Public Health, visit or call 2-1-1.


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