With news reports of bird flu being regularly reported, it can be difficult not to ask yourself if your pet bird is at risk for this serious illness. Myths and half-truths abound in the discussion on bird flu although the media provides important information about the virus. Therefore, in order to protect your bird and your family, it is essential to have a clear view of what bird flu in pet birds really is and how you can prevent it.
Preventing Pet Bird from Bird Flu
What Is Bird Flu?
Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a viral infection transmitted from bird to bird. Currently, a particularly deadly strain of bird flu – H5N1 – continues to spread among birds in India and parts of Asia.
Technically, H5N1 is a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAI). It is deadly to most birds. And it is deadly to humans and other mammals that contract the bird virus. Since the first human case in 1997, H5N1 has killed almost 60% of people who have been infected.
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Bird Flu Facts
A B, C, and D are the main types of influenza viruses. Wild birds commonly carry the type A virus, of which there are more than 25 known subtypes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Including dogs and horses, some of these subtypes can infect other species. And although it is not common for avian influenza viruses to infect humans, it is possible. This is especially the case for the highly contagious H5N1 subtype.
The H5N1 strain of the virus is one of the most serious and can be fatal to birds and people. According to the World Health Organization, the mortality rate in humans is around 60%. Infected birds spread the virus through saliva, mucus, feces, and blood. Birds can also contaminate their environment with the virus, where they can stay for weeks on surfaces, such as feeders and bathtubs.
Although H5N1 has been diagnosed mainly in chickens and other farm birds, it is possible that almost any bird will contract the virus. And because migratory birds carry the virus, it can easily spread throughout the world.
The most common symptoms in humans are fever, muscle pain, sore throat, and cough. And progression to serious respiratory infection can occur quickly, requiring immediate treatment. In addition, many birds will die quickly, even before you notice signs of illness.
Pet Birds and Bird Flu
The risk of getting bird flu is not particularly high for pets. However, there are two factors that can increase the risk of infection.
The first risk factor is whether a pet bird spends time outdoors, where it can come in contact with wild birds. To minimize the risk, do not let your pet leave unattended. Even if your bird is safe in its outdoor cage, observe it closely to keep wild birds and other animals away.
The second risk factor is the sale of birds captured in the wild in the pet trade. In addition to causing severe trauma to wild birds by pulling them out of their natural environment, this practice can play a role in introducing many diseases, including bird flu, into people’s homes and aviaries.
So, if you are looking for a new bird, look for a reputable breeder or rescue group to ensure that your new pet is healthy. If you recently purchased a bird that you suspect was caught in the wild, schedule an appointment with a bird vet as soon as possible. Avian veterinarians are able to test for specific bird diseases, such as bird flu, and can offer treatment for your birds if necessary.
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Symptoms that your pet bird is infected with Bird Flu:
Yes, there are symptoms that can help you understand whether a winged family member is sick or not. These are the following:
- Swelling head
- Problems regarding breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden eye discharge
- Purple discoloration
- Swelling legs and face
- Sudden death
You can’t expect all the symptoms of a bird. You may die without showing any of the symptoms listed here. So treat your bird well, otherwise, the mortality rate from bird flu is very high.
Keep Your Pet Bird Healthy and Hygienic
Truth be told, often the greatest risk to a pet bird’s health is the inadequate care of its owner. After handling your pet bird to mitigate the spread of any diseases always wash your hands. And be sure to clean the environment regularly to remove feces, old food, and other waste that can spread disease.
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A quality diet is one of the main ways to maximize a pet bird’s healthy life. In addition to nutritious seeds and pellets, be sure to feed your bird a mixture of green leaves and other vegetables, some fruits, grains, and nuts. Consult your veterinarian to find the ideal diet for your specific bird.
Give your pet bird plenty of space and toys to promote exercise. An overweight bird is at risk of bird flu in pet birds. Also, make sure your bird has plenty of social time, either with you or with other pet birds (or both), to maintain your physical and mental health. And finally, schedule regular wellness checks with your avian veterinarian. Birds can succumb to disease very quickly, so it is important to closely monitor their health throughout their lives.