Ducks & salmonella

Written by rebecca mecomber
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Ducks & salmonella
Ducks can carry the salmonella bacteria. (ducks image by Snezana Skundric from Fotolia.com)

Ducks are personable, attractive waterfowl often domesticated for their eggs and meat. While ducks are generally less susceptible to some diseases and parasites that plague other fowl, they can become infected with salmonellosis.

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Salmonella and Salmonellosis

Salmonella is a microscopic, rod-shaped bacterium. The bacterium thrives in the intestinal tract of living things, showing preference for birds and pigs. The USDA estimates that 2 to 4 million Americans suffer from salmonella poisoning every year. With the rise of industrialised animal factories and meat-processing plants in industrialised nations, the incidence of salmonellosis has increased, as well. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service reports that salmonellosis is the "most frequently reported cause of food-borne illness."

Misconceptions

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations claims that "duck eggs are a significant source of salmonellosis in humans" but offer no scientific data to support this statement. According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), ducks are no more or less susceptible to salmonellosis than other birds.

Salmonella and Ducks

Salmonella can be present in eggs, chicks and mature ducks. The CDC discourages baby duck chicks as Easter pets for children. A chick with salmonella contaminates its environment with the bacteria, posing a threat to humans who handle the animal.

Symptoms of Salmonella

Ducks with salmonellosis are limp, uncoordinated and wobbly. They experience head tremors and diarrhoea, and become dehydrated. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recommends a treatment of "chlortetracycline (.044 per cent) or sulfadimethoxine-ormetoprim (0.04-0.08 per cent) in the feed" for sick ducks. Humans who have handled infected ducks or consumed improperly cooked duck meat exhibit similar symptoms: diarrhoea, headache, fever with chills and nausea. Severe infections require hospitalisation with antibiotic therapy.

Recommended Handling

Always wash your hands with warm soapy water after handling ducks, their droppings or anything in their environment. The USDA recommends that poultry eggs be kept refrigerated and stored no longer than five weeks. Hard-cooked eggs should be consumed within two weeks. Cook duck meat until the internal temperature has reached 73.9 degrees Celsius, as measured by a meat thermometer.

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