Officials with the Wyoming Department of Health [WDH] are warning people about salmonella and other diseases which can be carried by baby chicks, even when the birds may appear to be healthy.

“Because poultry chicks are soft and cute, many people want to touch, hold or even snuggle them but this behavior can be risky because the birds can have germs on their body and in their droppings,” said Tiffany Greenlee, surveillance epidemiologist with WDH. Salmonella, which can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and other severe symptoms, is of particular concern.

Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are especially at risk, and in rare cases, salmonella can be fatal.

The health department is urging people to take the following precautions when handling live birds:

  • Children younger than 5 years of age, elderly persons or people with weak immune systems shouldn’t handle or touch chicks or other live poultry.
  • After touching live poultry or anything in the area where they are found, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t eat or drink around live poultry, touch with the mouth or hold close to the face.
  • Don’t let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms or in areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored.
  • Clean equipment or materials used in caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers.