Over the past two decades aviculturists and pet bird owners have become increasingly aware of just how many deadly diseases can lurk in aviaries, bird marts, and pet shops. Thus, the concept of quarantine has become more important, even in homes adding only a second bird to the “flock.”
Some of these infectious diseases are psittacosis, psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), and polyoma, to name a few. If a bird becomes infected with PBFD the prognosis is dire. Anyone with birds in the home should take every precaution they can to avoid bringing this into their home.
Quarantine essentially means that when you get a new bird you must keep it absolutely separate from your other birds for a minimum of six weeks (many insist on eight weeks or more). During that time, the bird should be brought in for a new-bird exam, which should included cloacal swab culture and blood tests. Tests can specifically be made for psittacosis, polyoma, and PBFD. There have been some cases of false-negatives however. There can even be the issue of the quality of the laboratory that tests the sample. The cost varies, but it is much less than the cost of treating a whole flock of sick birds. It comes nowhere near the emotional cost of losing all your birds to something as devastating as PBFD.
In the home, the bird should not share the same air space as established birds. Feed and clean the cage of the new bird last so you don’t inadvertently carry feather dust to established birds’ cages and food bowls. Wash you hands thoroughly after handling the new bird or its toys, food bowls, or cage. Hand-washing is one of the best infection-control procedures available. Learn basic disinfection techniques to keep your home and aviary as clean as possible.
Remember, just because a bird “looks” perfectly healthy, does not mean it is. Sometimes a bird will not shed a particular virus until stress or other factors “activate” it. You should never make assumptions about a bird’s underlying health based on appearances alone.
Another issue arises if you like to visit pet stores filled with birds or bird marts. Resist the temptation to handle birds in these places. Feather dust can become attached to your clothing and get in your hair, so if you have been around other birds, you should shower and change clothes before handling your bird. While this might sound paranoid to anyone who has never experienced these diseases, anyone who has seen the misery they can cause will tell you that this kind of paranoia could save your birds’ lives. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to infectious diseases.