(CNN) — Researchers are evaluating an outbreak of salmonella infections in 19 people that could be associated with sick or dead birds, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Infections have occurred in eight states, including California, Tennessee and New Hampshire, and eight people required hospitalization. Currently no deaths are reported.
The agency cites interviews with sick people and laboratory tests showing that contact with wild songbirds and bird feeders could be causing the infections.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports being “inundated” with calls about residents finding sick or dead finches in or around bird feeders, particularly on the state’s central coast and in the San Bay Area. Francisco.
One species in particular, the pine goldfinch, is most often the subject of such calls in the state.
These birds, marked by yellow stripes on their tail feathers, can congregate and rapidly spread salmonellosis, causing large numbers of the species to die within 24 hours, according to the department.
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Pine goldfinches can be found throughout the United States, as well as parts of Mexico and Canada, says the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.
Birds can contract salmonella when they eat birdseed that is contaminated with the feces of other birds, often on the ground under bird feeders.
Birds are often carriers of bacteria such as salmonella, and the germ can be transmitted from birds to pets and to people, the agency says.
In humans, salmonella can include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, tends to last four to seven days, and most people can recover without treatment, according to the CDC. However, some serious cases require hospitalization.
The CDC recommends that people wash their hands immediately after touching a bird feeder, bird bath, or handling a bird, even if they are wearing gloves. They also advise cleaning bird feeders outside your home, when possible.
And the Audubon Society recommends washing bird feeders with soapy water before soaking them in a chlorinated water solution.
Cleaning bird feeders monthly can help prevent feeders from harboring disease. It may also help to rake or collect the scattered bird droppings or pods under bird feeders, the society says.