Although birds can spread bacteria to people, illness caused by touching or owning birds is rare. To best protect yourself from getting sick, thoroughly wash your hands with running water and soap after contact with birds or their droppings.
Different types of birds can carry different diseases. For example, baby chicks and ducklings often carry the bacterium Salmonella. This bacteria causes salmonellosis (sal-MOhn-el-OH-sis) in humans. Parakeets and parrots can carry the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci (kluh-MID-ee-ah si-TACH-ee). This bacteria causes the disease psittacosis (sit-a-koh-sis). Pigeon droppings can also have germs that make people sick.
Some people are more likely than others to get diseases from birds. A person's age and health status may affect his or her immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.
People who are more likely to get diseases from birds include infants, children younger than 5 years old, organ transplant recipients, people with HIV/AIDS, and people who are being treated for cancer. Special advice is available for people who are at greater risk than others of getting diseases from animals. If you or a family member has any of this conditions, tell your health care provider that you have a pet bird.
Many organization support the health benefits of pets. These groups provide information on how pets can help people be healthy. They have been shown to lower blood pressure perhaps because they are a source of joy to most owners. If a bird bites and breaks the skin, wash with soap and water and use an anti-bacterial ointment with a bandaid for protection.
Parents and day-care workers should be aware that children under 5 years old should not touch baby chicks and ducklings. These baby birds can pass Salmonella bacteria to children and make them very sick.
Chlamydia psittaci Infection (psittacosis): A bacterial disease associated with pet birds, including parrots and parakeets.
Cryptococcus Infection (cryptococcosis): A fungal disease associated with wild-bird droppings, including those from pigeons.
Salmonella Infection (salmonellosis): A bacterial disease associated with many birds, especially chickens, baby chicks, and ducklings.
For more information visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's site. www.cdc.gov