Avian Flu for Bird Owners

Avian Flu: How Bird Owners Can Keep Their Pet Safe

Learn how to protect your pet bird from Avian Flu and keep them safe with easy, practical steps.

By Diane Burroughs, LCSW

Avian flu is a virus that affects birds and can spread easily from bird to bird. An avian flu outbreak can occur quickly and can have serious consequences for the health of pet birds. As a pet bird owner, it's important to understand the risks posed by avian flu, and what you can do to protect your pet. In this blog post, we'll look at everything pet bird owners need to know about avian flu to keep their pets safe. 

What is avian flu?

Avian flu, also known as avian influenza, is a contagious viral infection caused by influenza A viruses that affect wild and domesticated birds. It can also be transferred from birds to humans, although this is rare.  

Avian flu symptoms in birds vary depending on the strain of the virus, but typically include respiratory distress, decreased appetite, and depression. In more severe cases, it can cause death. Avian flu is highly contagious and can spread quickly through flocks of birds, both wild and domesticated. It can be transmitted through contact with infected birds, their secretions, or contaminated materials such as water and feed.  

If you have a pet bird, let it be a chicken, a dove, a duck, or a beautiful parrot, you should take a few moments to read about protecting your flock. 

What are the symptoms of avian flu in birds?

Avian flu symptoms in birds can vary depending on the strain of the virus, but they generally include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, decreased appetite, ruffled feathers, lethargy, and poor coordination. Other symptoms may include swollen head or neck, pale or bluish comb or wattles, purple discoloration of the eyes, diarrhea, and sudden death. It is important to note that many birds may show no signs of avian flu despite being infected.  

Birds of certain species are more prone to avian flu, such as wild ducks and geese, chickens, turkeys, pheasants, partridges, quail, and other backyard poultry. These species are especially susceptible to the virus and should be monitored closely for any signs or symptoms of avian flu. If you notice any of the avian flu symptoms in birds, it is important to seek medical attention for your pet right away to ensure they get the best care possible. 

How does avian flu spread?

Avian flu is a highly contagious viral disease that can be fatal to birds, including pet birds. It is spread through contact with an infected bird's bodily fluids, droppings, saliva, or nasal secretions. The virus can also be transmitted through contaminated surfaces, food, or water.  

Avian flu outbreaks have been reported in many countries across the world, but they are especially severe in parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe. In the United States, most avian flu outbreaks are limited to wild birds and poultry. There are no safe areas in the USA where avian flu is not a risk to pet birds. 

Bird migrations can bring the avian flu virus and can cross paths with pets who could catch it. In order to stay safe, pet owners should keep in mind what part of the country they live in and learn about avian flu levels. 

What can pet bird owners do to prevent avian flu?

Avian flu is a serious concern for pet bird owners as it can be extremely contagious and sometimes fatal to birds. The best way to prevent avian flu is to reduce the bird’s exposure to the virus. Bird owners should avoid taking their pets to bird shows or pet shops, as they are often high risk areas for transmission of the virus.  

When cleaning the cage, bird owners should always use disinfectants that are proven to kill the virus. It’s also important to keep outdoor aviaries clean and free of debris, as the virus can survive in small particles.  

If you have both an outdoor chicken house, as well as pet birds inside the house and live in a high risk area, immediately isolate the indoor birds from the outdoor poultry.  In an abundance of caution you may be preventing the potential spread of the avian flu virus.

After visiting the chicken coop, remove and disinfect your shoes and clothing and thoroughly wash up before interacting with indoor birds. 

By reducing exposure, cleaning regularly and being aware of the symptoms of avian flu in birds, pet bird owners can help keep their pets safe from this potentially deadly virus.  

What should pet bird owners do if they think their bird has avian flu?

If you have a bird that you feel may have been exposed to avian flu you should immediately contact your veterinarian or call the USDA toll-free hotline (866-536-7593). https://bit.ly/3ZONDK0

How do you keep pet birds from avian flu?

Prevention is key when it comes to avian flu. If you live in an area that has been highly affected by the virus, it is best to avoid bird flu all together. Don't attend bird shows and be careful when taking your pet bird outside. If  you do attend a bird show, make sure to disinfect your clothing and shoes as soon as you come home. Also, hop in the shower and lather up. 

Bird Flu Incident by State_2023

States with HPAI Infections in Wild Birds

If you have an outdoor aviary for your birds to spend time outside, it is important to disinfect the area first. Then, always supervise your birds when they are outside. If wild birds, especially waterfowl, come into your yard, you may want to avoid taking your pet birds outside all together. 

For chickens, make it a habit to clean the chicken coop often. In addition, look out for any signs of avian flu symptoms in birds such as depression, breathing difficulties, sneezing, coughing and discharge from eyes or nostrils. If you believe that your bird may have contracted the virus, contact your local veterinarian immediately. 

For inside birds, keep the bird room clean. Change out the cage paper often. If you are in an area with a high incidence of infected wild birds you'll want to be extra careful when taking your birds outside. AIIMS points out that, "The avian flu virus is destroyed by drying, and exposure to sunlight for a few hours. However, in the event of a pandemic, recent droppings are to be considered infective unless proven otherwise." 

In conclusion...

Avian flu is a highly contagious virus that can have serious consequences for birds, especially pet birds. Knowing the symptoms of avian flu in birds and the ways it is spread is important for pet bird owners to protect their pets from this virus. Taking precautionary steps such as quarantine and vaccination, as well as regularly inspecting their birds for any signs of avian flu symptoms, are essential in keeping pet birds safe from avian flu. With the right preventive measures in place, pet bird owners can help to protect their birds from this virus and ensure they remain healthy and happy. 

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References:

Protecting Birds from Avian Influenza in the United States Q&A 

Avian Influenza: Protect Your Birds

Bird Flu: Cleaning and Disinfection

States with HPAI Infections in Wild Birds

Avian Flu FAQ

Avian Influenza in Companion Animals

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Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

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