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Salmonella outbreak killing Southern songbirds

From the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

-- Salmonella infections have been killing more wild birds than usual in the Southeast this winter, but the increase does not seem related to the nationwide human disease outbreak tied to tainted peanut products, according to wildlife scientists.

The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., said testing so far has shown that the birds have been dying of a different Salmonella strain than the one in the human outbreak. It is Salmonella Typhimurium, and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study sees outbreaks of this type in birds every year, but usually not to this extent.

Salmonella Typhimurium is also the serotype involved in the human outbreak, but the bird strain does not match genetically with the human cases.

What can you do to help stop the outbreak in our wild birds? Laurel Barnhill, bird conservation coordinator with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said that since transmission of the Salmonella bacteria is through saliva or feces, it is important to keep areas where birds congregate clean. Among the steps bird-lovers can take are taking feeders down for a week if you have found dead birds, and disinfecting the feeders before putting returning to service.

Keep feeders clean. Clean feeders outside and not in your kitchen sink. Bird feeders should be disinfected at least once a month under normal circumstances and once a week if sick or dead birds have been found. Disinfect feeders by complete immersion in a solution of one part liquid chlorine bleach in nine parts hot water for several minutes.

Air-dry completely before putting feeders back up. Keep the area around and under the feeder clean. Rake up excess spilled seed and when cleaning feeders, pour the leftover cleaning solution onto the spilled-seed areas. If possible, provide multiple feeding stations around the yard to disperse bird activity. However, one feeder disinfected regularly is better than several feeders that are not cleaned regularly. Move feeders periodically to reduce concentrations of droppings on the ground under feeders.

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