A Mysterious Illness Kills Songbirds in the Eastern US

A Mysterious Illness Kills Songbirds in the Eastern US
Image by Scottslm from Pixabay

From May 2021, songbirds of the Eastern US have been dying from an illness that baffles scientists. 

Maryland and Washington DC were the first two places where volunteers and scientists noticed the dead birds. Now, birds are dying everywhere from Kentucky to Delaware and as far as Wisconsin in the east. 

Scientists have concluded that the illness affects the neurological system of birds. This illness is manifested by a white crusty layer over the eyes, lethargy, disorientation, and inability to fly. It has mostly been recorded in very young birds. 

More than 300 dead birds have been found and sent to the Arlington Animal Welfare League. The real numbers are suspected to be much higher. 

If the illness continues and is not identified and treated, it can significantly damage the already decreasing bird population. Statistics show that 14% of birds are endangered, with some on the verge of extinction. 

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and the US Geological Survey took charge and are researching the possible cause of this mass bird die-off. Many other laboratories are working to help them find the answer to the mysterious disease.

So far, they have ruled out a few diseases. The birds are not infected with Salmonella, which is the most common cause of bird epidemics. They’ve also ruled out the following bacteria and viruses:

  • Chlamydia
  • West Nile virus
  • Avian influenza
  • Herpesviruses
  • Yellow fever viruses 
  • Poxviruses 
  • Newcastle disease virus

At the moment, there is no indication that the infected birds can transfer this illness to humans. 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, people are becoming more and more fearful of animal viruses. But, not many diseases can be spread from animals to humans. 

However, to be completely safe, you should take some precautions. Especially when it comes to your pet — and especially if your pet is a bird.

You should remove your bird feeders, if you have any, at least until the situation is clarified. Sick birds may gather around it, come in contact with healthy birds, and transfer the illness to them.

And most importantly, you and your pet should avoid any contact with sick birds.

Besides taking your pet for a regular checkup, you should consult your vet immediately if you notice that your pet bird is exhibiting any of the mentioned symptoms.

Scientists are close to finding out what’s happening, but until then, stay safe — and keep your pets safe too.

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