I have always known that sometimes people can catch illnesses from birds, but thought it to be rare and have never given it much thought. Well, that is until recently when I came across an article in our daily paper, where a middle aged woman was diagnosed with allergic alveolitis. Her condition has worsened over the years, from at first breathlessness, to having to rely on a constant supply of oxygen just to be able to breathe anything like ordinary. It transpires that she kept a budgie at one time, and now her doctors have linked the diseases to her beloved bird.
Allergic alveolitis is caused by microscopic dust particles of animal or vegetable origin, which get into the lungs and clog up tiny little air sacs called alveoli. One of the most common causes though comes from bird droppings, and is often referred to as 'bird fancier's lung'. Unless the disease is diagnosed early, it can lead to chronic shortage of breath and even death!
After further research, I read that the government advises us not to kiss our birds for a number of infective reasons.
"Not to kiss our birds!" Good grief, I have been kissing budgies for years now and never thought anything of it except my love for the animal. I have nudged my face into the bird's feathers and shared my food with them. I've blown the husk out of their seed, and breathed the dust from the trays when performing routine cage maintenance. I've done all this, and never a thought that any of it may make me ill.
So what am I to do? Do I keep my birds at arm's length and wear a mask when I clean them out? Or should I just carry on as normal, with the thought that if I am to catch something nasty, it is too late now, as I have been exposed to possible infection for years, and if I was going to catch something, then I would have done already by now.
But wait a minute, I did experience flu-like symptoms a year or so back, and get breathless after a lot of physical exertion (both symptoms of the disease), so maybe I have it already. Oh no, I feel quite poorly now, I think I'll go and have a lie down!
No but seriously, I think I will take a little more care in future. I still love my birds and will care for them and interact with them as before, but in the back of my mind, I will still remember that my budgie can kill me, or at least make me very ill.