Salmonella outbreak tied to songbirds and birdfeeders

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are linking a salmonella outbreak in eight states to wild songbirds and birdfeeders.

While no deaths have been reported, the current outbreak has led to eight hospitalizations, and has sickened 19 people including one person in West Tennessee.

Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says that while not everyone gets sick from salmonella exposure, it can be very dangerous.

“So, salmonella is a bacteria that resides in the intestinal tract, and it causes a diarrheal illness with fever, and cramps, and nausea, and sometimes vomiting certainly doesn’t make you feel good,” explained Dr. Schaffner, “And on occasion, it can leave the intestinal tract and actually get into the bloodstream. And if you’re immunocompromised, very young, or on the old side, it can be actually life-threatening.”

The main culprit in this outbreak is Pine siskins, which spread salmonella through droppings. Those who interact with birdfeeders and birdbaths are more susceptible to exposure.

The key to avoiding illness is good hygiene.

“So be very, very careful when you go out to the bird feeder to restore it to put more feed in, or you clean out your birdbath, that you’re very careful in washing your hands afterwards. And while you’re doing it, don’t touch your mouth or your lips,” said Dr. Schaffner.

The CDC also recommends cleaning and disinfecting your birdfeeder or birdbath weekly to help control this outbreak.

If you find a sick or dead songbird, contact the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

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