Cute little chicks and ducklings can carry Salmonella bacteria that can make people, especially children, ill, Oregon public health officials said in their annual spring warning.

Cute little chicks and ducklings can carry Salmonella bacteria that can make people, especially children, ill, Oregon public health officials said in their annual spring warning.

Since 1996, baby chicks have been connected with seven Oregon disease outbreaks affecting at least 87 people, the announcement said. One-third or more of them were children, Oregon Public Health veterinarian Emilio DeBess said in the statement.

Many of the outbreaks have happened in the spring, when people handled, kissed and kept baby poultry inside their homes.

Baby birds probably aren't appropriate gifts for children younger than 5 or for people with weakened immune systems because they are more susceptible to infection, he warned.

Salmonella infections can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever symptoms lasting three to seven days, DeBess said. To prevent infection always wash hands thoroughly after handling the birds or cleaning areas where they live; keep chicks in an appropriate outdoor area; and never nuzzle or kiss chicks.

— Anita Burke