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2006-19

Dear Cathy Cockatiel

I am a 6-year-old umbrella cockatoo whose parents like to attend auctions, some of which are held in buildings that also host bird marts.

My people read that avian viruses and bacteria have been found at bird marts – even at stands selling only supplies, not birds – and that the viruses can remain infective for a long time.

My humans don’t attend bird marts, because they don’t want to bring these diseases home to me and my avian siblings.

But I worry they might carry diseases home when they attend auctions in the buildings where bird marts were held.

Can they safely bring home non-pet items bought at an auction weeks after a bird mart was held in the same building?

Is it safe for my humans to eat food prepared in such a building?

Cathy Responds

Your humans are safe. Of the bacteria and viruses listed in your letter, only Chlamydia is zoonotic, which means it can infect both human and non-human animals.

Chlamydia bacteria generally cause problems only if inhaled in large numbers by people with weakened immune systems. So eating food at the auctions is unlikely to put them at risk for Chlamydia.

With regard to your question about you and the other birds in your family, the answer depends on the “dose” of pathogens you receive.

If your humans attend an auction and bring home very few viruses and bacteria, it is unlikely you will get sick.

However, if they frequent bird marts and pet stores that sell birds, they may bring home large quantities of pathogens – and you might get sick.

So encourage them to shop at clean, reputable bird supply stores, rather than bird marts, and to disinfect the products they buy before they use them.

And don’t worry when they attend auctions and bring home antiques and other treasures, because it’s unlikely they will make you ill.

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