BROOKSVILLE — Owners of 39 exotic birds rescued from a local animal shelter have been put on alert after a bird that came in contact with that group tested positive for a bacteria that can cause flu-like symptoms in humans.
Community Services director Jean Rags said Wednesday that her office was contacted by Spring Hill veterinarian Dr. Mary Green after a macaw brought to her by client tested positive for a type of bacteria that can cause a disease called psittacosis in people, or avian chlamydiosis in birds.
The macaw was among more than 40 exotic birds removed from the home of Carol Mas and Estebahn Agustinho in October after a judge declared them unfit to care for the animals.
"As far as we're aware there is only one bird affected by the bacteria," said Hernando County Animal Services director Liana Teague. "Our concern is that some of the others could also be carriers. We're letting everyone who bought one know that they should take the precaution of having them checked out by a veterinarian."
Teague said the infected macaw was one of more than three dozen exotic birds sold in an online auction in November to recover expenses incurred during the agency's investigation and seizure of more than 200 animals discovered at Our Animal Haus shelter east of Brooksville, which was run by Mas and Agustinho.
Health officials sent letters Wednesday to buyers of the birds, warning of the possibility of contamination of the avian chlamydiosis bacteria.
The Animal Haus shelter was ordered closed in October after animal control officers discovered numerous malnourished, diseased and injured animals living in unsanitary conditions. Nearly all of the nearly 100 cats seized at the shelter were euthanized after veterinarians discovered they either were suffering from highly communicable diseases or had been exposed to them.
Teague said the birds were evaluated by a veterinarian. Birds infected with avian chlamydiosis can appear normal and may not shed the bacteria all the time.
As far as she is aware, the county shelter has never reported a case of the disease in its animal population. She noted that avian chlamydiosis is not the same as avian flu (commonly called bird flu) which is caused by a virus.
In humans, psittacosis often comes with flu-like symptoms, including fever, coughing, achiness and malaise. It is treated with common antibiotics.
Teague said employees at her shelter spent Wednesday afternoon disinfecting cages and the area around where the birds were kept after they were brought in. Employees exposed to the animals were told to see a physician if they showed symptoms of psittacosis.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.