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Common Causes of Infection

Here are some common reasons why birds become ill.

Cause Organisms Preventive Measures
Wet food including vegetables, fruits, sprouts, or any other food that is not dehydrated, pelleted, or in seed form. Wet food is an excellent medium to grow bacteria and fungi. Observe the two-hour rule. In warm weather make it one hour.
Pathogens on the surface of fruits and vegetables. This is a serious problem for humans and birds. Enteric bacteria including E. coli and hemorrhagic variants, Salmonella, and hepatitis. The infection typically occurs during food processing or from contaminated irrigation water. Soak all fruits and veggies in a solution of grapefruit seed extract (20 drops per gallon of water) or cider vinegar (one cup per gallon) for at least 15 minutes. Rinse and scrub with a stiff brush, except any items being peeled. Always peel bananas and melons.
Molds and aflatoxins on the surfaces of foods, especially peanuts. Molds and fungus. Aflatoxins are deadly spores produced by the Aspergillus sp. fungus. Avoid seed mixes containing in-shell nuts. Feed only raw, blanched, or Spanish peanuts out of the shell. Just before feeding soak whole nuts in vinegar, rinse, and dry.
Contact with a human or other mammal’s mouth. Pathogenic bacteria, Candida albicans, other fungi or viruses. Don’t feed your bird from your mouth or let your bird feed you. Avoid kissing birds except on the upper beak.
Pathogens on the human hand (normal human enteric flora is pathogenic to birds). Bacteria, typically; but may also transmit a fungus or virus. Disinfect your hands before handling your bird. (Use Vionex or another professional product.)
Airborne pathogens. Generally mold spores and bacteria, viral particles transmitted in feather dust, and bacteria aerosolized by sneezing and coughing. Keep sick people at a distance from your bird, especially if they are coughing or sneezing. Use air purifiers to trap circulating organisms and UV or ozone generators (like Ecoquest products) to kill surface bacteria and fungus.
Water crocks. Only a few bacterial or fungal organisms can multiply to millions in a few hours of warm weather. Switch to drinkers or watering devices, or change water several times a day.
Accumulated droppings and food on cages, perches, stands, etc. Droppings and old food provide an excellent medium for bacteria and fungi. Wipe down all surfaces each day. Use grapefruit seed extract or vinegar; both are safe, effective, and nontoxic. We recommend a weekly, thorough cleaning of all surfaces. If possible, move cages and perches outside for a thorough scrubbing. Wipe dry to extend the life of the coating. Leave in the sun for natural disinfecting.
Exposure to birds who may be asymptomatic, but carrying an infection. The most serious threat is viral infection. Viruses can be transmitted simply by sharing airspace. Owners and visitors can carry viral particles on clothes and shoes. Don’t buy birds from bird marts and fairs unless you arrange for extensive testing and follow strict quarantine procedures. Don’t take your birds to meetings or other public gatherings with other birds. Carefully disinfect yourself after exposure to any unknown bird.
Rodents in a bird’s environment. Rodents carry bacteria, viruses and parasites which can be transmitted to birds and humans. Recent outbreaks of Hanta virus and other deadly diseases have been attributed to rodents. Use baited traps, glue traps, and pellets or blocks of bait. Don’t let your bird anywhere near these products.