It is most important to take extreme care in handling wild birds. If the diagnosis is in doubt, isolate the bird and yourself and practice barrier nursing until you have a definite diagnosis. Barrier nursing is interposing a barrier (or several barriers) between yourself and the patient. Wear gloves and face masks, handle with forceps, wear surgical gowns. Don't let affected cages touch others. Keep feeding bowls, towels and cage linings away from others. After infected birds die, ensure that you thoroughly clean cages and aviaries with chlorine bleach.
It is imperative that you keep your immunisation against tetanus up-to-date.
This was originally called "psittacosis' (parrots) and then "ornithosis" (birds in general), and is caused by the rickettsia Chlamydia psittaci. It mainly involves parrots, finches, canaries, pigeons and doves, but other species can be affected. The Dr. Miles survey in Adelaide some years ago, showed the disease to be wide spread in the feral pigeon population - as high as 70%. Many birds appear healthy but they carry the disease in a latent state. However if those birds are placed under stress, such as being injured and taken into care, the disease may be activated. The organism is excreted in nasal or eye discharges, or in droppings. It may also be carried by mites. Dusty confined conditions associated with transporting and pet shops, can give rise to outbreaks - especially in establishments which stock trapped young parrots and galahs.
The disease is not especially common in humans. It can be contracted after direct or air-borne contact with droppings and aviary dust etc. In the case of clearing roof spaces of bird droppings, workers would be advised to use air line respirators to protect themselves.
Symptoms of the disease include chills, fever, headache, general aches and pains and often an irritating cough. It will be worse in the over 50s and for those with pre-existing respiratory diseases. The incubation period is 10 days and treatment entails a course of medication that lasts 7 or 8 days.
Transmission to other humans is rare. Immunity after contracting the disease is short lived - you can get it again. Venereal chlamydiosis in humans is a related organism (C. trachomatis) which does not affect birds.
Ross River Virus
A poly arthritis with painful swelling of the joints and a rash. This disease occurs in the North of Australia, but through the combination of mosquitos, water birds, and seasonal factors it can now spread right down to areas close to Adelaide. T he original host animals in Carpentaria, and the carrier birds, (all of whom have been bitten by mosquitos) are not affected by the virus. But humans are!
This also is transmitted by birds, it is one of the viruses that causes influenza in man. It has been known to be carried by migratory waterfowl. Such carrier birds could fly into reserves or wildlife parks and pose a slight health risk to humans. The symptoms are typically those of influenza - headache, fever, muscular aches and pains, lassitude.
Newcastle disease (Paramyxovirus)
Can be found in game birds, chickens, raptors, pigeons and parrots. Transmission amongst birds is by
infected droplets. Symptoms include eye irritation, respiratory difficulties, gastric and general illness,