How to Prevent Catching Your Bird’s Diseases? – Zoonoses

Although our pets rarely transmit any disease to us, it may happen, especially to birds that have been poorly cared for or have been in contact with a sick bird. Here you’ll learn what these diseases could be and how to avoid them without having to leave your winged friend aside.

Remember! This blog is only a guide to some birds’ common diseases that can be transmitted to humans and for more information you should visit a veterinarian (in the case of your birds) or a doctor you trust if you think you have any symptoms.

What are zoonoses? 

Before starting, you should know that the term that defines the diseases that are transmitted by vertebrate animals to humans is called zoonoses. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are at risk of contracting this type of disease are those who work in the meat market, agriculture, or people who live near wild areas and may have contact with wild animals.

The origin of zoonoses can be protozoan, fungal, bacterial, chlamydial, or viral. Rabies is one of them and can be prevented through vaccination.

 What diseases are transmitted from birds to humans? 

  • Psittacosis
  • Salmonellosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Colibacillosis
  • Avian influenza
  • Histoplasmosis
  • Cryptococcosis


Known as parrot fever or chlamydophilosis, it is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psitacci, and is so called since it is psittacine birds such as parrots and macaws that often carry and spread the virus to humans.

The incubation period of the bacterium is 4 to 15 days, although 10 days is the most common.

How is it transmitted? 

The disease is transmitted to humans by direct contact with sick birds through nasal fluids or feces, although stress can be a conditioning factor for the bird to produce the bacteria.

Symptoms in birds 

  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Nasal or ocular discharge

Symptoms in humans 

  • Severe pneumonia
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Arthritis

How to treat it? 

If you think your bird has this disease or any of these symptoms, it would be better to go to the veterinarian to identify exactly what type of disease it has and to know how to act. In the case of psittacosis, birds are treated with chlortetracycline for 45 days, although the treatment for turkeys and pigeons is more extensive.

In humans, antibiotic treatment is continued for 21 days.


There are 200 serotypes of Salmonella species discovered in passerine birds such as canaries, goldfinches, zebra finches, and psittacine birds, frequently occurring in stressed individuals.

Incubation period: 6 to 72 hours, although 12 to 36 is the most common.

How is it transmitted? 

The disease is transmitted to humans by contact with or accidental consumption of feces or consumption of undercooked meat or eggs from infected birds.

Symptoms in birds 

  • Diarrhea
  • Discolored droppings

Symptoms in humans 

  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • Stomach pain.

How to treat it? 

Humans with mild symptoms only need hydration with oral serum, although in some cases when the bacterium is lodged in the intestinal tract, the use of antibiotics is necessary.


It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium similar to the one that causes tuberculosis in humans, but in immunosuppressed people, the infection can cause complications because it is more difficult to treat than human tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis).

How is it transmitted? 

It is spread to humans by consumption of food and water contaminated with bird feces, but can also occur by inhalation of dried feces and contaminated soil.

Symptoms in birds 

The disease in birds causes tuberculous nodules with symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy.
  • Weight loss.
  • Weakness.
  • Diarrhea.

Symptoms in humans 

The most common is the infection lodging and causing the lymph nodes to swell, other symptoms can be wound infections. Other symptoms can be:

  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness

How to treat it? 

The bacterium is resistant to antibiotics, therefore in some cases, it is necessary to remove the affected lymph nodes to completely eliminate it.

In the case of birds, unfortunately, there is no treatment discovered so far, the only solution is to euthanize the bird.


It’s a bacterium that lives in the intestine of most animals, being part of their intestinal flora. It’s caused by the Escherichia coli bacterium, although there are some other strains that can cause complications in birds.

Incubation period: 12 hours to 5 days, although 12 to 72 hours is common.

How is it transmitted? 

It’s spread by accidental ingestion of fecal waste or by eating undercooked contaminated meat.

Symptoms in birds 

  • Septicemia (bacteria in the blood)
  • Chronic respiratory disease.
  • Inflammation of the joints (Synovitis).
  • Inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (Pericarditis).
  • Inflammation of the oviduct (Salpingitis)

Symptoms in humans 

  • Bloody diarrhea (Dysentery).
  • Fever.
  • Shock.
  • Purpura.
  • Renal failure.

How to treat it? 

The main treatment for the infection is oral saline and medications to treat diarrhea, although antibiotics and other medications along with hospitalization are necessary in severe cases.

Avian influenza 

It’s a viral infection (the most common H5N1 and H7N9), frequent in poultry that coexists with many other birds, however, the managers of hatcheries try to have control of it due to the great losses that can be caused.

Domestic birds will rarely carry the virus unless they are outdoors and in close contact with wild birds carrying influenza.

How is it transmitted? 

Transmission to domestic birds can be caused by:

  • Consumption of water from a source contaminated with the virus.
  • Contact with surfaces such as cages or dirt
  • Through feeders.

In humans, transmission is usually by close contact with sick birds and their fluids.

Symptoms in birds 

  • Fluffy feathers.
  • Internal hemorrhages.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Nasal and ocular discharges.
  • Lethargy

Symptoms in humans 

  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Dry throat.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Headache.
  • Shortness of breath.

How to treat it? 

In humans, it is treated with antivirals to reduce any complications and reduce the severity of the condition.


It’s a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum) that grows in the feces of chickens. It doesn’t affect them but humans and some other mammals who can also be your pet.

How is it transmitted? 

It’s transmitted by inhaling the spores produced by the fungus.

Symptoms in humans 

The disease caused by this fungus can cause complications such as:

Lung damage 
  • Chills.
  • Chest pain.
  • Cough.
  • General malaise.
  • Fever.
Chronic cavitary pulmonary disease (COPD) 
  • Dry cough.
  • Cough with phlegm.
  • Loss of weight.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Lesions that cause the growth of the spleen and liver.
  • Ulcerations in the mucosa.

How to treat it? 

The treatment for humans consists of antifungal drugs for a period of 3 months to 1 year depending on the severity of the disease.


This disease is also caused by a fungus called Cryptococcus neoformans present in domestic birds such as Australian budgerigars, lovebirds, and canaries.

How is it transmitted? 

In birds, it is transmitted from the ground by yeasts or by being in contact with pigeon nests that keep droppings. However, it rarely affects birds, and it is more likely for them to be carriers of the fungus and transmit it to humans and other mammals such as dogs or cats.

Transmission of the disease to humans also occurs by yeasts, reaching them through inhalation or through the skin (wounds) by being in close proximity to the fungus through dried feces.

Symptoms in humans 

In humans, the disease appears with conditions such as meningitis or meningoencephalitis and pulmonary infections including symptoms such as:

  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Chest pain.
  • Headache.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Visual disturbances.

How to treat it? 

This disease should be treated with antifungals prescribed by a professional doctor because some of them may have side effects and should be consumed with caution or moderately.

How to prevent zoonoses? 

Diseases in birds can be avoided if you are aware of the symptoms, and the regular conditions of your winged pet, and take care of the cleanliness of its environment.

Spaces cleaning 

As you have already read, in most cases birds infect humans through their droppings or other fluids, in which fungi and bacteria can also begin to grow, so it is important to always keep clean the cage, feeders, waterers and accessories with which the bird is in contact.

The cleanings can be monthly or weekly depending on the number of birds you have and the conditions in which all the elements in their space are in.

One element that you must always keep clean and change daily is the food in the drinkers and feeders.

You can learn more about cleaning in our blogs about cage cleaning and accessories.


Vaccination is important for some pets and for us humans, but in the case of domestic birds, vaccination is not so common due to the little exposure they have to other birds or the conditions in which they are raised. However, there are vaccines indicated for poultry such as hens that live in hatcheries.

Pay attention to your bird’s health condition 

As you may have also noticed, some of the zoonoses I explained, birds present symptoms that alert you of such disease so it is best that you go immediately to a veterinarian specializing in birds that can help you to clarify what may be happening with the bird and make a diagnosis.

Keep in mind that not all diseases may present visible symptoms or, on the contrary, some of the signs may not correspond to a specific disease.

Be cautious of the outdoors 

Some birds are commonly allowed to roam outdoors, as may happen with chickens or peacocks. In these cases, however, you must be careful of the contact they have with other birds or wild animals and the ground on which they graze, since some pathogens may be preserved in the soil.

Hand washing and other precautions 

Remember that no matter how clean and healthy your bird is, you must wash your hands with soap and water after touching or coming in contact with it or any toy or accessory it uses, since the most common cause of zoonosis is contact with fluids or traces of feces.

Tip: Be careful when changing the paper or newspaper left to pick up the bird’s waste, wear gloves and if necessary some kind of mask to avoid inhaling dust from feathers or dried feces.

What to do with a sick bird? 

Although the symptoms may sometimes seem obvious, the main thing to do when your bird shows any unusual signs is to visit your veterinarian, who will be able to diagnose and tell you what to do with it.

Isolation of the bird 

It can happen that some diseases require the bird to be isolated from its other companions because the disease is incurable or can be treated but transmitted to other birds.

Medical treatment 

This is the best scenario when a bird can be treated with antibiotics or antivirals that effectively make it better and eradicate the pathogen in its body.


In the most extreme cases, where the disease is resistant to medication or causes damage to the bird, the best option is euthanasia.


Bird Diseases Transmissible to Humans

Infections and diseases caused by pet birds.