Above: Avian Tuberculosis (TB) is not a new disease but is uncommon in parrot-like birds, advises Dr Kevin Eatwell, who says the disease is not transmitted from adult birds to youngsters via the egg or sperm. The infection is obtained from a contaminated environment and the primary risk is via ingestion. Dr Eatwell says the disease is potentially transmitted to humans by inhalation or ingestion


DEFRA produce a list of suitable disinfectants for environmental control of tuberculosis organisms. See: http://disinfectants.defra.gov.uk


AVIAN TUBERCULOSIS (TB) has been identified as a potential threat to budgerigar studs, reports avian veterinary specialist Dr Kevin Eatwell.

Increasing numbers have been identified via the Budgerigar Society (BS) Veterinary Diagnostic Service (VDS), and myself, and the BS are keen to evaluate the extent of the infection within the fancy. The disease can be respiratory or bowel-related. The infection is carried by wild birds and the risk of this infection can be reduced by housing the birds inside, covering the outside aviary and using a concrete floor (which is cleaned regularly and thoroughly) compared to gravel- or soil-based aviaries, which are impossible to disinfect.

Exhibiting birds or having other fanciers visit your shed are low-risk. Shoes and clothes should be clean or laundered and newly worn.

With the increased housing of budgerigars inside, the main route of transmission is an infected bird being unwittingly moved into another fancier’s shed. This bird then infects other birds. The disease is chronic (slow) and so many birds will be actively shedding the organism without clinical signs. These birds will usually be adult birds.

Myself and the BS are urging BS members who belong to the VDS to submit both faecal samples and recently dead birds that fit the following clinical signs:

■ Adult birds over one year of age;

■ Thin body condition, without any signs of regurgitation;

■ Wet vent or diarrhoea.

I would urge fanciers not to blanket-treat their birds with any medication or over-the-counter remedies without identifying if their birds are at risk; routine antibiotics are of no use in treating this condition.

Reducing bird movement between flights or cages and cleaning followed by disinfecting the bird shed can significantly reduce the risk of spreading the disease between your birds. Culling of sick birds will reduce the level of infection but will not eliminate it due to the potential for large numbers of other birds shedding the bacteria.

If you suspect avian TB, contact the BS: 01828 633 030. 

Information box out

Kevin Eatwell: BVSc (Hons) DipZooMed (Reptilian) DipECZM (Herpetology and Small Mammals). RCVS specialist in zoo and wildlife medicine. ECZM recognised veterinary specialist in Herpetological Medicine.


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