Six people in Washington sickened by Salmonella illness linked to wild songbirds
Garrison Hardie

Six people in Washington sickened by Salmonella illness linked to wild songbirds


OLYMPIA – Six Washington residents have been sickened as part of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium, believed to be linked to wild songbirds, particularly Pine Siskins.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a total of 19 cases of Salmonella in eight states. Washington state is currently reporting six cases, including residents of Clark (1), King (1), Lewis (1), Kitsap (1), Spokane (1), and Thurston (1) counties. Three Washington cases have required hospitalization.

Symptoms of Salmonella can include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, the infection can be fatal. Infants, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with a weakened immune system are at the greatest risk.

Salmonella germs can spread between species of birds, pets, and people. Wild birds can carry germs, even if they look healthy and clean.

“You shouldn’t touch or hand-feed wild birds with your bare hands,” said Beth Melius, an epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health. “Cleaning your bird feeder or birdbath weekly or whenever it is dirty can help keep people and animals healthy. And, always wash your hands after touching your bird feeder or birdbath.”

The CDC provides these instructions for cleaning and disinfecting your bird feeder or birdbath:

  • Clean your bird feeder outside when possible. Do not clean feeders in your kitchen or places where food is prepared or stored.
  • Scrub feeder with warm soapy water to remove dirt and rinse with clean water.
  • Soak in a bleach solution (nine parts water and one part bleach) for at least 10 minutes.
  • Rinse with water to remove any remaining bleach solution.
  • Let it dry before refilling it.
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