Have you heard of zoonotic diseases? In essence, they are diseases that can pass from an animal to a human and vice versa. While most animals can spread unpleasant illnesses to their owners, those who own pet birds are especially encouraged to practice good hygiene in order to avoid contracting a disease.
While not incredibly common, it is possible for humans to contract minor or severe illnesses from germs their bird is carrying. Certain population groups, such as infants, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems, are at greater risk of getting sick.
If you own a pet bird, there are three easy tips you should keep in mind to help minimize your risk of getting an infection. Staying safe and healthy around your pet bird is a number one priority for both you and your pet.
Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands
This is a simple preventative step you should always take. Washing your hands with soap and warm water is a quick and easy way to remove germs and keep you healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands:
- After handling your bird or any of his objects such as toys, perches, water dishes, etc.
- After cleaning the cage and any of his droppings
- Before eating, drinking or smoking
If you do not have access to soap and warm water, consider placing a bottle of hand sanitizer near your pet’s enclosure. This will allow young children and guests to easily sanitize after visiting with your feathery friend.
Use Caution When Cleaning the Cage
While you should always wash your hands after cleaning the cage, it is also recommended you wear gloves while cleaning. The CDC advises that you:
- Never pick up bird droppings with your bare hands.
- Never wash supplies from your bird’s cage in the kitchen sink to avoid contamination. Use a bathtub or utility sink in the laundry room. Thoroughly disinfect the sink or bathtub afterwards.
- Even if you wear gloves, be sure to still wash your hands after you finish cleaning.
These steps are important measures to take, because unfortunately, some diseases are passed through your bird’s feces. Psittacosis (Chlamydiophila psittaci) can spread by simply breathing in dust from bird droppings. Those who own pet birds or work with birds frequently have a greater risk of getting psittacosis.
Beware of Bites and Scratches
Some diseases can be passed through bird bites and scratches. Even if the wound does not look severe, there is still risk. Children in particular should be monitored around pet birds. If you have been bitten or scratched, be sure to:
- Thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water.
- Seek medical care if the wound is severe.
- If the site becomes red, swollen or warm, call your doctor.
- If it has been over 5 years since your last tetanus shot, find medical care.
- If the bird was sick at the time he bit or scratched you, seek medical attention.
Owning a pet bird can be loads of fun and rewarding for the whole family. Staying safe and healthy around your pet bird can be accomplished by keeping the above principles in mind.
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