The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a salmonella outbreak that’s infected 19 people and hospitalized 8 is linked to songbirds, especially those that congregate around bird feeders.
The CDC is investigating the outbreak in eight states, including California, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. Those infected range in age from 2 months to 89 years old.
No deaths have been reported.
Salmonella is a bacteria that can lead to infection, often from ingesting foods or water infected with the it.
Birds are known carriers of Salmonella, even if they look healthy and clean, the CDC said.
Humans can contract Salmonella from birds after touching one’s mouth with unwashed hands after handling wild birds, bird feeders or bird baths, or if their pets have come into contact with any of the above.
Symptoms of severe Salmonella include diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, diarrhea for more than 3 days, bloody diarrhea, vomiting so much you can’t keep liquids down and dehydration. If you have any of these symptoms, call your health provider immediately.
In December, California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that songbirds were dying in droves across the state due to Salmonellosis, a disease caused by Salmonella, and cited bird feeders as an agent of spread because the birds congregate around them.
“Salmonellosis is almost exclusively reported from locations with bird feeders where birds congregate,” the CDFW said.
The agency urged residents to remove bird feeders and birdbaths and to instead let birds feed on natural seeds.
Birds get sick with Salmonellosis when they “ingest food, water or come into contact with objects … contaminated with feces from an infected bird,” the CDFW noted. “Sick birds often appear weak, have labored breathing, and may sit for prolonged periods with fluffed or ruffled feathers.”
If you find a sick or dead bird, call your local or state wildlife agency or rehabilitation center for advice, the CDC said.
The CDFW and CDC urge those handling dead birds, bird feeders and baths to wear gloves and thoroughly wash their hands afterwards.