Expert explains mystery illness killing songbirds, what Ohioans can do to prevent spread

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– The Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is warning backyard chicken owners to protect their flocks amid a mysterious illness killing songbirds.

Both agencies already asked Ohio residents to stop feeding wild birds, and remove and clean bird feeders. Owners of chickens, ducks and turkeys should also take steps to prevent their animals from being exposed to wild birds.

Other preventative measures include sanitizing feeders and waterers, monitoring dead or dying birds on the property, and keeping poultry in a fenced space.

“Presently, we are not sure what is causing these illnesses and deaths in songbirds,” said Dennis M. Summers, DVM, DACVPM, Interim-State Veterinarian for Ohio. “We are communicating with ODNR to assist in the reporting of sick and dying birds. Laboratory testing is being conducted, but the cause has not yet been determined.”

“It is critical that flock owners look for signs of illness and report any unusual illnesses in your birds,” Summer said.

Right now, the illness is mostly affecting blue jays, common grackles, European starlings, American robins and house sparrows. The bulk of the outbreaks are in Brown, Butler, Clark, Clermont, Delaware, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery and Warren counties, according to the ODNR.

The departments said owners should not wait if their birds are sick. Call a local veterinarian, cooperative extension service or state veterinarian’s office at 614-728-6220.

Death or illness in wild birds should be reported to ODNR online.

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