As Easter approaches, the state Department of Health wants to remind parents those adorable chicks and ducklings they're considering as gifts can come with a dangerous side effect.
"Baby birds are so soft and cute that people might not realize they may carry harmful bacteria called salmonella," State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes said in a statement. "While it's fun for children to get a baby bird, even healthy birds can carry bacteria that can make people sick."
Last year, 10 people in Washington became sick after handling chicks, ducklings and other poultry from a hatchery linked to an 11-state salmonella outbreak, a news release said. Half of those were children under age 13.
Infection from salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
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The health department recommends handwashing immediately after handling live poultry, and for parents to tell children not to nuzzle or kiss birds.
Children under 5, seniors and people with weakened immune systems shouldn't handle live poultry at all, the news release said.
The health department said that by being cautious and following hygiene recommendations, families can enjoy their birds and stay healthy.