The Wyoming Department of Health wants to remind people that 'chicks may be cute, but can spread ugly disease.'

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We know. We get it. Grow up.

They're talking about baby chickens, of course, and how despite their enchanting appearance, they're not actually safe to touch.

"As the time of year arrives when the “cheep, cheep” sound of cute chicks becomes more common, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is reminding people that baby birds can sometimes carry harmful germs even though they look clean and healthy," the WDH wrote in a press release.

The Department of Health wrote that baby poultry are a common source of Salmonella (which is why you shouldn't lick the batter). Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and other severe symptoms. WDH stated that children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to salmonella.

“There’s no denying that poultry chicks are cute and appealing," said Matthew Peterson, surveillance epidemiologist with WDH. "They’re soft too. That’s why many people want to photograph, touch, hold or even snuggle with them. Unfortunately, these charming chicks can also have germs on their bodies and in their droppings."

Springtime is primetime for salmonella, and Wyoming consistently produces cases of Salmonellosis.

“People in Wyoming are regularly infected with Salmonella as part of larger, multistate outbreaks involving baby poultry. It happens every year,” Peterson said. “The germs we’re concerned with are also found where birds live such as in their cages and coops. If someone puts their hands in or near their mouth after handling birds or touching the birds’ environment, they can become infected."

Peterson continued, stating that "We know pet ownership can be rewarding and there can be great benefits from having a backyard flock of chickens. But there are also steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from harmful germs.”

Those steps/tips, include:

  • 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 closely 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.

Peterson stated that it's not just baby chicks who can cause disease. Wyoming is also seeing 'highly pathogenic avian influenza' that's spread among both domestic and wild birds.

"Bird owners should follow guidance from the Wyoming Livestock Board on preventing exposure to wild birds and should report any symptoms among their birds to their veterinarians," the Department of Health noted. "Hunters who handle wild birds should dress game birds in the field when possible, wear gloves when dressing birds, and wash hands with soap and water afterwards. Other individuals should avoid contact with wild birds if possible."

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