Story at a glance

  • The infected individuals range in age from 2 months to 89 years old. At least 8 people had to be hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
  • The CDC says whole genome sequencing shows the bacteria from samples taken from the group of 19 people are closely related genetically, meaning they likely got sick from contact with the same source.
  • Researchers also found bacteria samples from sick or dead wild pine siskin birds in Washington and Oregon were closely related to the bacteria from the group of 19.

Health authorities are investigating whether a multistate outbreak of salmonella is connected to wild songbirds and bird feeders. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thursday said a total of 19 people in eight states have been infected with salmonella between Dec. 26 and March 16. Those who get sick from salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, and in some cases require hospitalization. 


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The infected individuals range in age from 2 months to 89 years old. At least eight people had to be hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. The cases occurred in Washington, Oregon, California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Mississippi and Kentucky. 

The CDC says whole genome sequencing shows the bacteria from samples taken from the group of 19 are closely related genetically, meaning they likely got sick from contact with the same source. 

Researchers also found bacteria samples from sick or dead wild pine siskin birds — small, streaked, yellow-tinged songbirds in the finch family — in Washington and Oregon were closely related to the bacteria from the group of 19. 

Birds can become infected with salmonella when they eat food, drink water or come into contact with objects like bird feeders contaminated with feces from an infected bird. Sick birds may appear weak and may sit for prolonged periods of time with fluffed or ruffled feathers. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife in February said it had been inundated with calls from residents finding sick or dead birds around bird feeders, with most coming from California’s Central Coast, the San Francisco Bay Area and Sierra Nevada communities. Officials said the birds were found to have salmonellosis, the disease caused by salmonella, and were primarily pine siskins. 

At least nine of the sick people said they owned a bird feeder, and two said they had contact with a sick or dead wild bird. At least 10 said they have pets that had access to or contact with wild birds. 

“Epidemiologic and laboratory data show that contact with wild songbirds and bird feeders is likely making people sick in this outbreak,” the CDC wrote

The health agency reminded people not to touch or hand-feed wild birds with bare hands and to clean and disinfect bird feeders and bird baths weekly or when they’re visibly dirty. 


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Published on Apr 02, 2021