Animal Use Safety Data: Birds

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Working Safely With Birds


Zoonosis: A disease that can be transmitted from animal to human. This brochure provides basic information regarding zoonotic risk and who can be contacted for further assistance.

This information is provided to assist you in understanding the potential occupational hazards associated with the use of birds and the need in some instances to take precautions to minimize the potential for animal-to-human zoonotic disease.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Gloves, masks and a laboratory coat (or other dedicated protective clothing such as a scrub suit) should be worn when working with birds. In some cases protective eye wear is also indicated. Do not eat, drink, or apply cosmetics while working in an aviary, and always wash your hands after handling birds. Remember that unfixed tissues, body fluids, and other materials derived from birds may also pose a risk. Guano (feces), hair and feathers may also exacerbate allergies.

Contact Enterprise Risk Management at 593-2237 for any concerns or questions you have about working with birds or any vertebrate animal and occupational risks. Help with training personnel in specific work practices to minimize risk can be obtained by contacting the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) at 593-3344.

BE ADVISED: All personnel working with birds or vertebrate animals are eligible to enroll in the Occupational Health Program (OHP). Contact Enterprise Risk Management at 593-2237 for additional information.

If you work with birds:

Birds have diseases such as psittacosis and an avian form of tuberculosis. Only inspected, properly quarantined birds should be used in research studies or teaching demonstrations. Mycological fecal contamination is also frequent. The causative agents for some avian transmitted diseases are described below and the following links describe some of the potential illnesses associated with birds and may be found on-line:

How are avian diseases spread?

Transmission to humans occurs by exposure via the inhalation route for the fungal infections (Histoplasma, Cryptococcus) due to inhaling spores. Contact with tissues through cuts or scratches may also pose a risk. Another route of exposure may be surface contact while handling avian fecal specimens.

Who is at risk for infection?

Those at risk include investigators, animal technicians, laboratory personnel, or others who routinely handle birds, their tissues, and feces. Scratches or cuts involving birds or injuries from objects contaminated with body fluids or feces from birds require immediate first aid and medical attention.

Notify your supervisor!

For immediate life threatening injuries contact the University Police Department at 593-2611 or dial 911.

This page was last updated on: October 12, 2015