Bird flu detected in Washtenaw County after pet parrots die from the virus

Cute green bird on finger, Parrot on the finger, Parrot Sun conure on hand. Feeding Colorful parrots on human hand. Bird on finger
Photo credit Getty Images

WASHTENAW COUNTY (WWJ) -- The highly contagious avian influenza has been spotted in Washtenaw County after pet birds succumbed to the virus.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) spokeswoman, Jennifer Holton, said some parrots in the residence were the latest in the state to die from the disease.

They are currently working with the birds' owners to finalize a flock plan in order to prevent any further disease spread.

This virus can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, said the MDARD. Even wild birds can spread it by coming into contact with infected poultry, equipment or the clothing and shoes of caretakers.

But the virus is not so likely to spread to pet birds, says State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland.

“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," said Wineland. "For example, put in safeguards to not introduce any material, food, or clothing that wild birds may have contaminated.”

Holton says pet birds in a family home are unlikely to have any contact with wild birds, but their contact with contaminated material could be indirectly through exposed food, cage furniture or an owner's clothing.

However, humans should not be concerned about this influenza. The CDC stated this aviary flu doesn't present an immediate public health concern.

Furthermore, no human cases of this avian influenza have been detected in the United States. Also, no birds or bird products infected with the virus will enter the food chain, said the CDC.

But officials are saying this is the time to start protecting Michigan's birds.

"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," said Wineland. "MDARD continues to act swiftly to reduce the spread and respond to the ongoing presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Michigan.”

Whether you have a large commercial flock or just a few birds in your backyard, MDARD has included the following fundamental key steps in protecting the health and vitality of Michigan's 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.

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Any domestic bird owners or caretakers should watch for unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption or an increase in sick birds -- if avian influenza is suspected, contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images