SANTA FE, NM – Seven people were infected with Salmonella related to live baby poultry, the New Mexico Department of Health reported. Four cases were infants aged 13 months or younger, and two of them were hospitalized.

Salmonella infection in young children can be a very serious illness, sometimes fatal,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward. “We are urging families that have recently purchased baby birds to not allow the animals inside their home where they can contaminate the environment and potentially infect people, especially children.”

State health officials said symptoms of Salmonella infection can develop one to three days after exposure to baby chicks and their droppings. Risk of Salmonella infection increases when parents keep chicks inside the house and allow their small children to handle and snuggle with them, public health officials warned. Infections also can occur when parents don’t wash their hands properly after handling the birds, indirectly passing the infection to their children.

Salmonella is often present in the droppings of chicks and other baby birds, even though the animals themselves usually won’t show signs of illness,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, Public Health Veterinarian at the Department of Health. “That makes it easy for people to let their guard down, and that’s when they run the risk of getting Salmonella.

“An increasing number of people around New Mexico are choosing to keep live poultry, such as chickens or ducks, as part of a greener, healthier lifestyle” Dr. Ettestad added. “While they enjoy the benefits of backyard chickens and other poultry, it is important to consider the risk of illness, especially for children, which can result from handling live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.”