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CDC: The salmonella outbreak in songbirds caused disease in humans

The salmonella outbreak in birdhouses in recent months has sparked an investigation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 19 people in eight states have been infected with salmonella from exposure to wild birds or birdhouses, and eight people have been hospitalized, the agency said. No deaths were reported.

According to the CDC, the infections occurred in California, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington.

As we wrote in late March, the outbreak mainly affected Pine Siskins, Goldfinches and other forage birds, and prompted some state wildlife agencies and wildlife rehabilitation groups to encourage people to dismantle their birdhouses and baths for a few weeks.

CDC promotes several steps to prevent salmonellosis, the disease transmitted by salmonella bacteria:

  • Always wash your hands immediately after touching bird seed, bird bathing, or handling a bird – even if you were wearing gloves.
  • Clean and disinfect your bird feeder and bird bath weekly or when they are visibly dirty. Feeders should be cleaned outside of your home whenever possible. If you’re cleaning it indoors, use a sink or bathtub and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately afterwards.
  • Keep pets away from bird feeders and bird baths, as well as the areas below.
  • Do not touch or feed wild birds with your bare hands.
  • If you find a sick or dead bird, contact your state wildlife authority or wildlife rehabilitator.
  • If you find a sick or dead bird in your yard, remove all birdhouses and baths and clean them outdoors for two weeks.

The agency’s data shows that the diseases reported in this outbreak began in late December and lasted through mid-March. It’s likely that many more people got sick but recovered without medical care and never got tested for salmonella.

Symptoms of salmonella disease include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Children under 5, adults 65 and over, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk and may need medical attention and hospitalization.

Experts recommend cleaning feeders with a 10% household bleach solution (9 parts water: 1 part bleach) and removing spilled and possibly contaminated feed under the feeder. Clean feed troughs, bird baths, and any items contaminated with bird droppings in an outside area or in any other area of ​​your home that is not used for food preparation or bathing.

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