Mycobacterium avium Infections
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith

Pet BirdWhat is a Mycobacterium avium infection?
Mycobacterium avium infections in birds are uncommon and are caused be a bacterium that is related to the one that causes tuberculosis. These bacteria can infect numerous organs.

How is a Mycobacterium avium infection transmitted?
Mycobacterium avium can be found in the droppings of infected birds. The droppings can contaminate food and water, and the bacteria can then be ingested by noninfected birds. Mycobacterium avium can also be transmitted by inhaling the bacteria.

What are the symptoms of a Mycobacterium avium infection in birds?
Birds with a Mycobacterium avium infection usually show weight loss despite the fact that they have good appetites. Other symptoms can include diarrhea, watery droppings, lameness, poor feathers, swollen abdomen, and skin nodules or ulcers.

How are birds with Mycobacterium avium infection treated?
Treatment with specialized antibiotics is expensive and may need to continue for one year or more.

Can a Mycobacterium avium infection be transmitted from pet birds to people?
This is unclear. Many people, especially those with suppressed immune systems, have been diagnosed with Mycobacterium avium infections, but these cases have been linked to contaminated water, exposure from the environment, etc., but not to pet birds. Yet, the potential of zoonotic transmission should be considered, especially in households with a person with a suppressed immune system. To prevent this and other infections, people should wear gloves when cleaning cages, wash their hands well after handling their bird, and have their bird examined if she shows any signs of illness.

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