I'm not against animals in schools or backyard poultry. I'm just against being stupid.
Chick in girl's hand
Photo courtesy of Depositphotos
How’s this for timing? As I was writing the post below, my youngest daughter walked in the door and said “A chick pooped on me today.”
It wasn’t a total surprise since I’d heard a vague statement from her about maybe having chicks in the class for the end of the year.
Is it potentially fun and/or educational?
- Sure. If it’s done right.
Is it done right?
Chicks are cute and can be entertaining. They can also be educational. Yet, contact with them is clearly associated with disease. While I get an infosheet from the school and have to sign something every time one of my kids does any other type of activity, there was no notice about this particular activity, no information about risks and preventive measures, nothing about what to do if a child is at high risk for severe disease, or anything else.
Just my kid telling me she got pooped on.
I’m not overly concerned. She’s healthy, outside of the main high risk groups, and washed her hands after the incident. Yet, I don’t know (and doubt the school knows) whether that applies to everyone in the class or other kids that might have contact with the chicks. The chicks are also being kept in a classroom where the students eat.
A lot could be done to minimize and communicate the risks. We tried approaching the provincial Ministry of Education and school boards quite a few years ago to look into animal exposures in schools, and there was basically zero interest in the subject. Whether that’s because there was no awareness of the issues or no desire to find out what’s actually going on is hard to say.
Now on to the post I was writing…
CDC has related an updated investigation notice about Salmonella from backyard poultry. As of June 13th, 279 infected people have been identified in 41 states, with cases dating back to January 1st, 2019 (see map below). That probably means a few thousand people have actually been infected, since reported disease numbers are typically dwarfed by the real number of cases.
- The strains that have been linked to the outbreak are Salmonella Agona, Anatum, Braenderup, Infantis, Montevideo and Newport
- 30% of infected people were children younger than 5 years old, which is the group that typically gets sick or seriously ill from Salmonella.
- 26% of people were hospitalized. Fortunately, no deaths were reported.
- About 40% of isolates were multidrug-resistant.
- 77% of infected individuals reported contact with chicks or ducklings from places like agricultural stores, mail order supplies and hatcheries.
- One of the outbreak strains has also been found in backyard poultry in Ohio.
I’m not against animals in schools or backyard poultry. I’m just against being stupid.
There are lots of things that can be done to reduce risks, and too often those easy, cheap and practical measures are ignored.
Salmonella map CDC 2019
This map shows the incidence of Salmonella for the first half of 2019. Graphic courtesy of CDC.
Reprinted with permission from Worms and Germs.
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.