Fort Worth, Texas,
12:20 PM

Chick check

That fluffy bunny or fuzzy chick for Easter could make your child sick


A live, fluffy bunny, fuzzy chicks or dyed eggs can add fun and excitement to children's Easter baskets. But beware parents - these cute little treats could cause your child to get sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300 adults and children in the United States become infected with salmonella as a result of handling live chicks and ducklings during the Easter holiday. Harmful bacteria that live on a bird's eggs, feathers, feet and beak are transmitted by handling or consuming contaminated eggs or by coming in direct contact with the animal or its feces.

"Salmonella infection can cause bloody diarrhea, severe stomach pain, cramping, vomiting and fever," said Mark M. Shelton, M.D., board certified physician with Cook Children's specializing in infectious disease. "It can be very dangerous in infants and toddlers whose immune systems are still developing, and salmonella requires hospitalization once symptoms become life-threatening."

Many parents are unaware of the harm associated with giving live animals as pets for Easter. Watching your child kiss, cuddle or hold an adorable baby chick or bunny makes for a picture-perfect moment, but it can be dangerous to the child and incredibly stressful for the animal, too. It's easy to forget these delightful, tiny creatures will mature in fewer than 90 days and require long-term care and attention.

Once Easter is over, thousands of rabbits are surrendered to animal shelters or rescues, while chickens and ducks are often turned into backyards or fields to tend for themselves. The Humane Society of the United States recommends buying children a toy stuffed animal or chocolate bunny in place of a live animal.

"Holidays such as Easter - along with petting zoos and farm-yard exhibits - expose children to a whole host of dangerous bacteria," Dr. Shelton said. "Children pet the animals then put their hands in their mouths, rub their nose and eyes, and can become infected on contact. There are hundreds of E. coli (Escherichia coli) strains and even potentially deadly bacteria and germs that can cause children severe illness or even permanent damage to the brain or kidneys."

Dr. Shelton recommends parents ensure children wash their hands thoroughly after touching and playing with any animal.

"We don't want to prevent children from enjoying and learning about animals," Dr. Shelton said. "But it is important they stay healthy by taking the proper hygienic measures."



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