Stay Healthy When Caring for your New Ducklings or Chicks

Chicks and ducklings may appear healthy and clean, but they can carry germs that cause illness. The germs that poultry shed in their droppings can contaminate their bodies, the areas where they live, and even the things that they touch.

What is salmonella?

Salmonella is bacteria that can cause a gastrointestinal infection known as salmonellosis. Usually salmonellosis is referred to as "salmonella." This infection can occur in humans and animals. Most people infected with salmonella are ill for four to seven days. The person may be ill enough to require hospitalization. Serious complications and death are rare and are more likely in the very young, the very old, and people who have other health problems.

Return to Top

What are the symptoms of salmonella infection?

Symptoms of salmonella usually start from 12 to 72 hours after the bacteria has been swallowed. The symptoms include abdominal cramps, headache, fever, and severe watery diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. People infected with salmonella can have milder or no symptoms.

How do people get salmonella?

People become infected with salmonella by swallowing the bacterium. This can happen from eating contaminated food that has not been completely cooked, or has been contaminated after preparation. Salmonella can also be spread from person to person when an infected individual does not thoroughly wash his or her hands after using the toilet. Health care providers and food handlers who are infected with salmonella can contaminate food during preparation, or while feeding a patient, if their hands have not been washed thoroughly.

Return to Top

Which foods are most commonly associated with salmonella?

Salmonella is commonly found in raw food products that come from animals, such as eggs, egg products, meat, meat products, unpasteurized milk, or other unpasteurized dairy products. Thorough cooking and processing effectively kills salmonella bacteria.

Are there non-food sources of salmonella?

Salmonella organisms have been found in the stools of sick and apparently healthy people and animals. Most domestic animals, including ducks, cattle, swine, dogs, cats, pet turtles and chicks have been found to carry and transmit salmonella. The bacteria also has been found in a variety of wild animals. Thorough hand washing after contact with animals is recommended to prevent salmonella transmission. Contaminated water is also a possible source of salmonella infection.

Return to Top

How is salmonella infection diagnosed?

Salmonella is usually diagnosed by a lab test called a stool culture. Your health care provider will provide the special container you need to collect a stool specimen. It usually takes several days before the test results are ready.

How is salmonella infection treated?

In general, people who are otherwise healthy recover without medical treatment. Antibiotics are sometimes needed by infants, the elderly, and people with other health problems, because they may be unable to fight off the infection by themselves. Dehydration is treated with oral or intravenous fluids. Consult your physician if you have prolonged diarrhea. Antibiotic treatment may increase the time it takes the body to clear itself of the salmonella bacteria. Even after symptoms have ended, it often takes several weeks for the bacteria to completely clear from the intestines.

Return to Top

Can salmonella infections be prevented?

Some general guidelines for helping to prevent salmonella infections are:

Are there recommendations for employees in high-risk occupations?

In order to protect the public, anyone who is infected with salmonella and has a high risk job (food handlers, patient care providers, dairy industry workers, or child care providers who prepare food or feed children) should not work in these jobs until there is no longer a risk of infecting others. Consult with the Health Department at 800-640-4374 (toll-free from within Vermont) for guidelines.

Return to Top