DEAR ABBY: In years past, you have warned parents that it is inappropriate to give young fowl or baby animals to small children as Easter gifts. Not only are the children too young to properly care for them, but they pose a health risk.
Many chicks, ducklings and other young fowl shed salmonella bacteria in their feces. Humans become infected from direct contact with the birds or when feces-contaminated food, hands or objects are placed in the mouth.
Children have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults and are less likely to wash their hands properly after handling chicks or ducklings. Infants, children under 5 and immuno-compromised persons are at high risk for severe infections and diarrhea.
Abby, please stress to your readers that if they handle young fowl, they MUST thoroughly wash their hands with soap and hot water. -- KAMMY JOHNSON, DVM, PHD, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, ATLANTA
DEAR KAMMY: Thank you for the timely warning. Parents who want to give their children chicks and ducks should buy the cuddly "stuffed" kind. Not only do they not have to be fed, they also don't pose a health risk.