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Bird Bites are a Real Health Threat

Would it surprise you to know that over six million American families have a pet bird? And like all domestic animals, birds come with a variety of interesting problems. Besides the mess that they can make and parasites they carry, they also bite! And those beaks are designed for crushing seeds and berries. So they can do some serious damage to those they bite -- even causing bone fractures and amputation of fingers!

In this article, bird bites and their treatment are discussed. Infection from bird bites is a big concern. Birds carry many of the common bacteria we are exposed to in our environment such as E. coli, Samonella, and Staphylococcus. But they also can transmit to humans (through bites and scratches) Lactobacillus, Pasturella multocida, and Proteus.

Infection is a major concern after a bird bite severe enough to cut the skin open. Without direct evidence from studies to guide treatment, the following suggestions are made:

  • All bites that break the skin should be irrigated and cleaned (debridement) in a hospital or clinic setting; more severe injuries may require surgical debridement.
  • Antibiotics should be prescribed when the wound is severe enough to warrant them. A broad spectrum antibiotic is advised to cover many different types of organisms.
  • Follow-up lab work to evaluate blood for systemic infection is also recommended; how long after the injury follow-up should continue is unknown.
  • More specific antibiotics can be prescribed if lab testing shows the presence of a particular bacteria or if patients do not respond to the first antibiotic.

    Bird owners and family members don't have to worry about getting rabies from a bird bite -- domestic birds don't carry rabies. And except for training the bird not to bite, no further action (e.g., quarantine) is suggested after a bite. Of course, advising family members (especially children) not to stick their fingers in the cage toward the bird might be a good idea, too.


    Carissa L. Meyer, MD, and Joshua M. Abzug, MD. Domestic Bird Bites. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. September 2012. Vol. 37A. No. 9. Pp. 1925-1928.

    10/17/2012

    *Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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