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Sure, baby chicks and ducklings are cute. But resist doing this with them

A Whatcom County resident sickened by salmonella is part of a nationwide outbreak traced to baby chicks and ducklings.
A Whatcom County resident sickened by salmonella is part of a nationwide outbreak traced to baby chicks and ducklings. Bellingham Herald file

A Whatcom County resident sickened by salmonella was part of a nationwide outbreak linked to baby chicks and ducklings.

At least 372 people in 47 states became ill after coming into contact with the live poultry, including 16 in Washington, according to the state Department of Health.

Five people in the state have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Seven of the 16 who were ill were children younger than 5.

“We are seeing a pretty high rate of hospitalizations,” said Hanna Oltean, epidemiologist at the state health department.

People said they got the baby poultry from a number of sources, including feed supply stores, websites, hatcheries and relatives.

Such outbreaks have been increasing in recent years because more people are keeping backyard flocks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children younger than 5 years old, adults older than 65, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to be sickened by salmonella and shouldn’t handle live poultry, state health officials said.

“They can have pretty severe infections,” Oltean said of young children.

To protect yourself:

▪ Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.

▪ Don’t let children who are younger than 5 years old handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other poultry without adult supervision.

▪ “We recommend people avoid kissing and snuggling their birds,” Oltean said, adding that chicks and ducklings pose a higher risk because they shed more salmonella bacteria than adult poultry.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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