CDC Investigating Salmonella Outbreak Tied to Wild Songbirds

Carolyn Crist

April 05, 2021

The CDC is investigating a salmonella outbreak that appears to be linked to wild songbirds.

So far, the CDC has identified 19 illnesses and 8 hospitalizations in 8 states between December in March.

"Birds can carry germs like Salmonella while looking healthy and clean," the CDC , the agency wrote last week.

Several salmonella cases have been linked with pine siskins, which are small, yellow-tinged songbirds in the finch family. Salmonella germs can spread between species of birds and to pets and people.

"You can get sick when you touch your mouth with unwashed hands after touching wild birds, bird feeders or bird baths, or your pets that have contact with wild birds," the CDC wrote.

As of April 1, the salmonella cases have been identified in 8 states: Washington, Oregon, California, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Vermont. The highest number of cases have been reported on the West Coast, with 6 cases in Washington, 5 cases in Oregon and 3 cases in California. The other states have reported one case.

Public health officials interviewed 13 of the people and asked them about the animals they had contact with a week before they became ill, the CDC reported. Nine said they owned a bird feeder, and two said they came into contact with a sick or dead bird. In addition, 10 said they had pets with access to wild birds.

The symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Symptoms typically start six hours to six days after swallowing bacteria, and most people recover without treatment in 4-7 days.

However, children under age 5 and adults over age 65 or those who have weak immune systems may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization, the CDC wrote. People should contact a health care provider if they have diarrhea and a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, diarrhea for more than 3 days that doesn't improve, bloody diarrhea, or signs of dehydration such as dry mouth and dizziness when standing.

The CDC recommended handwashing after touching a bird feeder or bird bath, touching a pet or pet's supplies such as bowls and toys, or handling a bird or a pet's feces, even if using gloves or a bag.

The CDC also warned against touching or hand-feeding wild birds with bare hands and recommended contacting a wildlife agency or wildlife rehabilitator if a bird is sick or dead.

In addition, the CDC provided tips to keep people and pets safe around bird feeders and bird baths. The agency recommended cleaning and disinfecting bird feeders and bird baths weekly or when they are visibly dirty. People should clean feeders and baths outdoors, when possible, or in a bathtub or laundry sink indoors, not in the kitchen or places where food is prepared and stored.

People should keep their pets away from bird feeders and bird baths and the areas underneath them, the CDC said, and remove a bird feeder or bath for two weeks if a sick or dead bird is found in the yard.


CDC, "Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Wild Songbirds: Investigation Notice."

CDC, "Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Wild Songbirds: Where Sick People Live."

CDC, "Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Wild Songbirds: Investigation Details."