Bird Diseases
Diseases associated with Pigeons, Starlings and English Sparrows










Eastern E. Encephalomyelitis



Fowl Typhoid



Infectious Coryza



Newcastle Disease





Q Fever

St. Louis Encephalitis



Streptococcus Zoopidemicus



Western E. Encephalomyelitis

Postharmosotomun gallinium

Brachylaemus fuscatus

Cryptocoyle convacum

Echinopharyhium recurvalutum

Echinostoma revolutum

Haplorchis pumilio

Hydoderaeum conoideum

Plagiorchis Muris

Trematodes** (Flukes)

Taniasia bragai



Ulcerative Enteritis

Beef Tapeworm (Taeniasis)




Histoplasmosis is a common respiratory infection that is associated with Pigeon droppings. Histoplasmosis is caused by humans inhaling fungal spores that have cultivated on pigeon droppings. It has flu like symptoms that can persist for several weeks and that even some doctors can't diagnose.

Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis)
Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis) is caused by Chlamydia psittaci, an obligate intracellular bacterial parasite. The disease in Psittacines (parrots) and humans is called psittacosis, while Ornithosis is the name of the disease in bird species other than Psittacines.

Most human cases are contracted from psittacines, pigeons, and turkeys. The disease can be transmitted from person to person.
A great variation in pathogenicity (the ability to cause disease) of various strains exists for humans and birds. Some strains - such as those found in pigeons - may not cause disease in their hosts.

Infected birds shed elementary bodies in their feces, urine, saliva, ocular secretions, nasal exudates, and feather dust. These infectious particles are inhaled or ingested by other birds and people. Egg transmission has been documented in the duck, budgie, and turkey. The incubation period in birds is several months to several years.
Birds with active chlamydiosis may have inflamed eyes, difficulty in breathing, watery droppings and green urates. Many birds are asymptomatic carriers and appear clinically normal yet infected. Any stress such as transportation, malnutrition, concurrent illness, poor ventilation, overcrowding, and breeding can cause shedding of the organism and clinical disease.
Humans are usually infected by the inhalation of infective particles in the air. The incubation period is 5 to 14 days. Symptoms are generally those of the flu - fever, diarrhea, chills, conjunctivitis, and sore throat.
A number of tests are available to diagnose the disease in the live bird. Unfortunately, it is not possible to declare a bird free of chlamydia on the basis of any one test. It is recommended that an antigen and an antibody test be done. The new PCR (polymerase - chain reaction) is a highly sensitive test that is now available.
Treatment for both people and birds is doxycycline or tetracycline. People are treated for 3 weeks, while birds are treated for 45 days.
Salmonella is a gram negative aerobic rod-shaped bacterium that can infect people, birds, and other animals. It can persist in soil and water for long periods of time.
All salmonella serotypes produce endotoxins capable of causing food poisoning. The toxin in the food source and the bacterium are both capable of producing disease.

Birds can become infected with salmonella by oral ingestion of contaminated food, water and through the egg - either by vertical transmisson or by penetration of the egg shell. Poultry and pigeons may carry salmonella yet appear healthy. Infected birds will be lethargic, lose their appetite, have watery droppings and may develop arthritis.
Most human cases of salmonella are acquired by eating contaminated food especially poultry rather than from pet birds. The incubation period is 6 - 72 hours in people. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever and dehydration may occur. Recovery may occur in 2 - 4 days. Salmonella can be transmitted from person to person. Humans carrying salmonella can infect their pet birds.
Diagnosis in the live bird can be difficult since birds may be intermittent shedders. Fecal or cloacal cultures are used for diagnosis. Birds are treated with aggressive antibiotics for 3 - 5 weeks based on culture and sensitivity. Birds may remain carriers for life.
Antibiotics are not usually prescribed for people unless they have a prolonged fever and are septicemic.
Detailed information on the transmissable diseases Allergic Alveolitus, New Castles Disease and Campylobacteriosis will appear in Zoonotic Diseases - Part II
in next month's issue. Avian Tuberculosis will be covered in Zoonotic Diseases - Part III.

Dr. Linda Pesek graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She has a small animal and avian practice in New York. Linda also writes columns for The Long Island Parrot Society and The Big Apple Bird Club and is a frequent lecturer at their meetings. She is the owner of an extensive collection of exotic birds.


Sharon Kennedy-Miles
Food Science Australia
P.O. Box 3312, Tingalpa D.C.  Qld  4173, Australia   

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