It is believed that our pet bird species may not be highly susceptible to this virus. Although there have been a few confirmed cases, it is thought that like humans, pet birds may only rarely get sick or die when exposed to the virus. Most people who get West Nile Virus don't even get sick, or they may get sick and recover. Some birds, such as crows, blue jays, hawks and owls, are dying in large numbers, but many other outdoor birds appear to be fairly resistant to it. It seems that the only way to catch it is to be bitten by an infected mosquito, so swallowing a mosquito or having your dog or cat pick up a dead bird in your yard will probably not cause a problem.
Several doctors presented their results of vaccination trials during the Association of Avian Veterinarians annual conference I attended in August. The findings so far are that the horse vaccine, which is the only vaccine available to try, was not causing a measurable immune response in several different bird species that had been tested so far. These studies are being continued so that it can be determined whether the vaccinated birds might be protected even though the protective antibodies are not showing up on blood tests. The current recommendation by these doctors was that vaccinating our pet birds is probably not useful, since the vaccine has not been proven to work, and it seems that they are not likely to die from the virus even if a mosquito bites them.
Dr. Reavill, the well-known avian and exotic animal pathologist I use for tissue samples, gave several lectures at the conference. She stated that she has not yet diagnosed a single case in a pet bird. Currently, the best recommendation for keeping our pets safe is to prevent exposure to mosquitoes. Keep them indoors during dusk when the bugs are at their highest numbers. Don't allow water puddles or dishes to stand for more than 24 hours. Make sure you have good fitting screens in your windows. However, do not use any sort of bug sprays near your birds! Our birds are about 10 times more sensitive to inhaled toxins than we are, so never attempt to spray any chemicals near the birds or their cages.
Will my bird catch West Nile Virus?
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Burge Bird Services
Julie Burge, DVM
13833 S. 71 Hwy
Grandview, MO 64030