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MEDIA ALERT - 70 Reports of Mysterious Songbird Deaths in Philadelphia Region, Across State

By: Martin J. Hackett, mhackett@vet.upenn.edu Date: Jul 1, 2021

Penn Vet and Pennsylvania Game Commission Investigating

What

Wildlife health experts from the Wildlife Futures Program (WFP) at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) and officials from the Pennsylvania Game Commission are investigating more than 70 general public reports of songbirds that are sick or dying due to an emerging health condition with an unknown cause.

As of July 1, 2021, reports from the public chronicle both adult and young birds exhibiting signs of the condition. The most common clinical symptoms include discharge and/or crusting around the eyes, eye lesions, and/or neurologic signs such as falling over or head tremors.

Affected birds are being tested for several toxins, parasites, bacterial diseases, and viral infections. To date, test results have been inconclusive.

Twelve species have been reported: Blue Jay, European Starling, Common Grackle, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Chickadee, and Carolina Wren.

Where

 In Pennsylvania, the reports have been received from 27 counties, including:

Philadelphia, and Bucks, Montgomery, Chester counties: 15 reports

Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, Schuylkill, York counties: 19 reports

Numerous reports have also been received across the United States including the Mid-Atlantic region, extending into the Southeast and eastern upper Midwest. Affected birds were first reported in and around Washington, D.C.

Who

Wildlife Futures Program; the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System (PADLS); the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine; the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

This is an emerging wildlife health event. Penn Vet will provide additional, timely information as it becomes available at https://www.vet.upenn.edu/about/news-room

Details

The public is encouraged to report any sightings of birds who have died and/or birds who have been seen with swollen and crusty eyes, as well as neurological signs such as stumbling and head tremors. Report the incident online at: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-laboratories/research-initiatives/wildlife-futures-program.

Experts are also encouraging the public to follow these FIVE precautionary measures until more is known:

  • Cease feeding birds and providing water in bird baths until this wildlife mortality event has concluded to prevent potential spread between birds and to other wildlife.
  • Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Avoid handling dead or injured wild birds. Wear disposable gloves if it necessary to handle a bird.
  • Keep pets away from sick or dead birds as a standard precaution.
  • To dispose of dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag and discard with household trash. This will prevent disease transmission to other birds and wildlife.

 

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About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling nearly 35,300 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles nearly 5,300 patient visits a year, while the Field Service treats more than 38,000 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.