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Diseases from Birds

Important Tip!

Parents and day-care workers should be aware that children under 5 years old should not touch baby chicks and ducklings. These baby birds can pass Salmonella bacteria to children and make them very sick.

chick just out of its egg

Although birds can spread germs to people, illness caused by touching or owning birds is rare. To best protect yourself from getting sick, thoroughly wash your hands with running water and soap after contact with birds or their droppings.

Different types of birds can carry different diseases. For example, baby chicks and ducklings often carry the bacterium Salmonella. This germ causes salmonellosis (sal-MOhn-el-OH-sis) in people. Parakeets and parrots can carry the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci (kluh-MID-ee-ah si-TACH-ee). This germ causes the disease psittacosis (sit-a-koh-sis). Pigeon droppings can have germs that make people sick.

Some people are more likely than others to get diseases from birds. A person's age and health status may affect his or her immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick. People who are more likely to get diseases from birds include infants, children younger than 5 years old, organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS, and people being treated for cancer. Special advice is available for people who are at greater risk than others of getting diseases from animals.

Many organization support the health benefits of pets. These groups provide information on how pets can help people be healthy.

Learn more about bird-related diseases, below.

Chlamydia psittaci Infection (psittacosis): A bacterial disease associated with pet birds, including parrots and parakeets. Recommendations and Reports MMWR.

Cryptococcus Infection (cryptococcosis): A fungal disease associated with wild-bird droppings, including those from pigeons.

Salmonella Infection (salmonellosis): A bacterial disease associated with many birds, especially chickens, baby chicks, and ducklings.

CDC Reports and Recommendations

Health risks associated with in-town chicken flocks Acrobat (PDF 19KB)

Salmonellosis associated with chicks and ducklings-Michigan and Missouri, Spring 1999. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report April 14, 2000; 49(14):297-9.

Compendium of measures to control Chlamydia psittaci infection among humans (Psittacosis) and pet birds (avian chlamydiosis), Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report July 10, 1998; 47(RR10):1-9.


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