Avian epidemiology

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1996:

The Florida Keys Wild Bird
Center in January declared finished a
five-year epidemic of “wasting synd
r o m e ” among cormorants. The victims
were found anemic, dehydrated,
and severely underweight, but without
obvious disease or injury. About 90%
died. The syndrome was to become
subject of a major study––but in March
1995, cases quit coming. Overall, the
Wild Bird Center treated 130 cormorants
in 1994 and 133 in 1995. Half of those
treated in 1994 had “wasting syndrome,”
but most in 1995 had been hurt by fishing
gear––like most other birds the center
receives. “We have pelicans, pelicans,
fishhooks and pelicans,” director
Laura Quinn told Nancy Klingener of the
Miami Herald, “because pelicans hang
around fishers.”

House finch conjunctivitis, a
variant of the Mycoplasma gallisepticum
bacteria that often hits poultry, has
spread to the South and Midwest, after
blinding and ultimately killing house
finches throughout the northeast since
the winter of 1993-1994. So far, house
finches are afflicted in 20 states, including
in 43 of the 88 counties in Ohio.
Closely related birds and birds who feed
with house finches seem unharmed––and
the disease has apparently not spread
into the original house finch habitat, in
the western United States. House finches
entered the rest of the U.S. after a
1940 probe of illegal sales by the pet
trade caused several Long Island dealers
to release their stocks. Breeding pairs
were detected by 1943. The U.S. epidemic
is unreleated to an outbreak of salmonella
that hit three other finch species
hard in Austria during early 1995.
The International Herald
Tribune reported on February 6 that
thousands of seagulls were dying of an
unknown cause along the coast near La
Touquet, France.

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