can i get sick from touching a bird

Many wild birds can have the same diseases as pet birds, but for more information about wild birds, visit the wildlife page.

Feathered pets like parrots can be fascinating additions to the family. Recent estimates say that over 5 million households in the United States have pet birds. Bird owners should be aware that although their pets might be highly intelligent and fun companions, they can sometimes carry germs that can make people sick.

Although rare, germs from birds can cause a variety of illnesses in people, ranging from minor skin infections to serious illnesses. One of the best ways you can protect yourself from getting sick is to thoroughly wash your hands with running water and soap after you touch birds, their droppings, or items in their cages.

By providing your pet with routine veterinary care and following the Healthy People tips, you are less likely to get sick from touching or owning a pet bird.

Read below about diseases that can be spread by pet birds. These diseases can be carried by any type of pet bird you have. Visit the Healthy People section to learn more about staying healthy around pet birds.

Cryptococcosis is an infection caused by fungus found in the environment, particularly in soil, on decaying wood, in tree hollows, or in bird droppings.

How it spreads: People can get cryptococcosis by breathing in the microscopic fungus from the environment.

Who is at risk: Cryptococcosis is extremely rare in healthy people. It most often affects people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms in people: Symptoms can resemble pneumonia, including cough, shortness of breath, and fever. Cryptococcal meningitis can cause headache, fever, and neck pain.

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by fungus found in the environment, particularly in soil that contains large amounts of bird and bat droppings.

How it spreads: People can get histoplasmosis by breathing in the microscopic fungus from the environment.

Who is at risk: Anyone can get histoplasmosis, but those most at risk for serious infection include adults over 65 years old, infants, and people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms in people: Most people don’t get sick from histoplasmosis. People who do get sick from histoplasmosis can have pneumonia-like symptoms that usually appear within 3-17 days of exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough, and fatigue.

Psittacosis is a disease caused by bacteria (Chylamydia psittaci) spread through the droppings and respiratory secretions of infected birds. People most commonly get psittacosis after exposure to pet birds, like parrots and cockatiels, and poultry, like turkeys or ducks. When birds are infected, veterinarians call the disease avian chlamydiosis.

How it spreads: People most commonly get psittacosis by breathing in dust from droppings or respiratory secretions of infected birds. Less commonly, birds infect people through bites and beak-to-mouth contact.

Who is at risk: Anyone who is exposed to the bacteria can get psittacosis, but it is more commonly reported among adults. People who have contact with birds (such as bird owners and those who work with birds) are at increased risk.

Signs in birds: Infected birds may or may not show symptoms. If they do have symptoms, they can include poor appetite, discharge from the eyes or nose, diarrhea or loose droppings, green urates (the white part of their droppings), or breathing difficulty, among others.

Symptoms in people: People who get sick with psittacosis might have fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, difficulty breathing, and a dry cough. Symptoms usually start 5-14 days after exposure. Less commonly, people report symptoms that begin after 14 days.


These species, and others like them, have become so accustomed to people and developed areas that they have very little fear of people. As a result, they nest in and around populated areas where they scavenge food. To put it simply, a lot of bird droppings and feathers accompany the acquisition of that food.

Bird droppings can be a major issue for nearby businesses and residents alike. It is ugly, smells bad, and typically smatters an entire area relentlessly every day. Awnings, cars, patio furniture outside, and other exposed surfaces are all covered.

Bird droppings left on cars in the sun can erode the clearcoat and leave behind irreversible blemishes. It turns your patio into an unhygienic place for guests to eat on an otherwise lovely day when you have outdoor seating.

This is a crucial point that many people overlook: bird droppings and feathers are a major source of disease. The primary disease-carrying species are starlings, pigeons, gulls or egrets, and sparrows. Basically, all the birds that you usually see in Houston on a daily basis


More than fifty different diseases that can affect people and other animals, including livestock and domesticated pets, have been linked to birds. Three categories best describe the primary diseases they carry:


  • Commonly called Parrot Fever.
  • Caused by the bacterium, Chlamydophila psittaci .
  • contaminated by breathing in airborne particles that come from the respiratory secretions, feathers, and feces of infected birds.
  • The onsetof symptoms occurs about 5-10 days after infection.
  • First symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever.


  • Caused by Salmonella sp. Bacterium.
  • Transmission through consumption of food and beverages tainted with bird excrement
  • Within 12 to 72 hours of infection, symptoms such as vomiting, fever, and diarrhea can appear.
  • Usually passes without medical treatment.


  • Caused by pathogenic yeasts Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcusgattii.
  • Resides in the intestines of infected birds.
  • Spread through inhalation of spores in contaminated air. The fungus grows in disturbed soil, which the wind picks up.
  • Affects the respiratoryand central nervous system.


  • Caused by Histoplasma sp. Fungus.
  • Transmission happens by breathing in spores from contaminated soil, just like with cryptococcosis.
  • Low health risk, maybe a mild fever.

Avian Influenza

  • Commonly known as Bird Flu.
  • Caused by influenza A strain of influenza virus.
  • Rarely infects humans, but is transmittable human to human.
  • Direct contact with infected birds or contaminated environments is the only way to become infected; however, in rare instances, food contaminated with raw poultry blood has been reported to cause infection.

Newcastle Disease

  • Member of the genus Avulavirus of the avian paramyxoviruses.
  • Named after location is was discovered in 1927 Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
  • A majorconcern for poultry farmers.
  • Can lead to mild conjunctivitis and flu-likesymptoms in humans.

West Nile Virus

  • Originates with birds even though regarded as a mosquito-borne disease
  • Belongs to the same virus category as Dengue, and Zika.
  • Birds are a reservoir of the virus.
  • Virus-carrying mosquitoes bite infected birds, which then bite humans.


Like other animals, birds typically spread disease through a variety of means, such as direct contact, contaminating the nearby airspace, or through insects they attract or carry that subsequently bite people.

There are three primary ways that certain bird species transmit diseases to other birds.

The main source of bird disease transmission is bird feces, particularly from the birds we have just mentioned. This is because bird droppings are a veritable petri dish of pathogens. In small amounts, bird feces are harmful. But dealing with a bird infestation also means dealing with an excessive accumulation of bird droppings, which poses a health risk. This is the reason Houston pest control businesses advise against bird infestations in order to prevent a more serious problem later on.

Feathers are another common source of disease transmission among birds, albeit not as frequently as excrement. Particularly in densely populated areas, bird feathers are frequently home to a wide variety of bacteria, parasites, and nasty viruses. It should be remembered, though, that the feathers that pose this risk usually come from a dead bird.

As experts in Houston pest control, we discover that bird nests also contribute significantly to the spread of diseases, especially a number of fungal species that can proliferate through the debris that birds collect and utilize as a nesting site. Additionally, insects and parasites like fleas and lice thrive in bird nests.


Is it safe to touch a bird?

Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. Wild birds can carry several diseases that are infectious to people.

Can you get diseases from touching a wild bird?

These viruses have the potential to cause human illness in people who have been exposed to infected birds. Infected birds shed bird flu viruses in their saliva, mucous and feces. Human infections with bird flu viruses are rare, but they can happen when virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled.

Can you get sick from picking up a bird?

Some zoonotic pathogens you can pick up from wild birds are: Bird flu, West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, salmonella, and more.

Can I get bird flu from touching a bird?

In parts of the world where this bird flu is present, some people have gotten sick after touching sick or dead birds with bare hands. Others have gotten sick who live in areas where there are lots of droppings from sick birds.