Conjunctivitis outbreak in birds in the USA
Near the end of May, there were reports of sick and dying birds in the Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky area. The birds all had evidence of swollen eyes and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs. The majority of birds affected were fledglings and the most common species affected were common grackles, blue jays, European starlings, and American robins. Since these first cases, there have been additional reports as far north as Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Testing of these birds is ongoing, but many common bacteria, viruses, and parasites have been ruled out (including Salmonella, Chlamydia, avian influenza virus, West Nile virus, Trichomonas, and many others). Additional information about the outbreak in the USA can be found by following this link:
CWHC Ontario/Nunavut have been monitoring the situation in our local birds and at this point, there have been only two suspect cases submitted through our service. One was a brown-headed cowbird who had a severe bacterial infection of the eyelids caused by Actinobacillus anseriformium. This bacteria has been reported to cause conjunctivitis (inflammation of the inner aspect of the eyelids and the covering of the sclera of the eye) in other bird species. After discussions with pathologists who are working on the bird cases in the USA, it was determined that the disease in this bird did not fit with what has been reported in the outbreak. The second bird was a fledgling robin with swelling and discharge of the tissue around the eye. The microscopic findings in this bird appear to be different from those reported in the sick birds in the USA, but additional testing of samples from this bird is ongoing to help determine the underlying cause.
CWHC will continue to monitor for this and other emerging diseases in our wildlife populations. If you have a bird feeder and notice any sick birds then please follow the recommendations in the following document (http://www.cwhc-rcsf.ca/docs/wildlife_health_notes/Backyard_Birds_Health_Note1.pdf) and contact the CWHC to report what you are observing. If you are in Ontario and find a sick or dead wild animal then please contact us at 1-866-673-4781 or firstname.lastname@example.org or report it online at https://cwhc.wildlifesubmissions.org/.