Highly contagious bird flu kills domestic parrots in Washtenaw County

Pet birds unlikely to contract virus, officials say

HPAI can affect both wild and domestic birds. (Pexels)

Washtenaw County, Mich. – Several domestic parrots in Washtenaw County have succumbed to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed.

Samples were sent to the lab following an investigation by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development after cases were confirmed in wild birds in the area.

MDARD is currently working with the owners of the parrots to come up with a flock plan to curb the spread of the disease.

It is rare for pet birds to contract HPAI since they are unlikely to come into contact with wild birds. For those birds housed inside a residence, the only way they could catch the disease is by coming into contact with contaminated materials like an owner’s clothing that’s been exposed, cage furniture or food.

Read: Avian influenza confirmed in birds living in Washtenaw County

According to officials, residents with pet birds should store food and water bowls away from where wild birds roost or fly. Additionally, bird owners should change or disinfect any shoes and clothing that have been worn off the premises.

“It’s important to recognize it’s very difficult for pet birds to catch avian influenza if the proper precautions are taken to stop the virus,” state veterinarian Nora Wineland said in a release. “For example, put in safeguards to not introduce any material, food, or clothing that wild birds may have contaminated. 

“No matter what bird species or how many birds one owns—now is the time to protect them. Bird owners need to take every strategy to protect their flocks and reduce the spread of HPAI within our state. MDARD continues to act swiftly to reduce the spread and respond to the ongoing presence of HPAI in Michigan.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said no cases of the avian influenza viruses have been detected in humans and do not present a public health concern at this time. Additionally, HPAI-infected birds or bird products will enter the food chain.

Read: With bird flu cases growing, Michigan suggests limiting bird feeders this year

According to a release, state officials recommend taking the following precautions to protect domestic birds:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Wash your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Do not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keep poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

Additionally, domestic bird owners should be on the lookout for a drop in egg production, unusual deaths, an increase in sick birds or a significant decrease in water consumption.

Those who suspect avian influenza should contact MDARD immediately at 800-292-3939 during daytime hours and 517-373-0440 during after hours.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.