Mysterious illness in birds causes death, blindness in Ohio, Northeast

Birds in Ohio are suffering from a mysterious illness that is causing severe disease and even death, the Preservation Parks of Delaware County announced last week. 

"Signs of a mysterious illness that is causing crusted-over eyes, blindness, neurological issues, and even death is starting to show up in local birds," the Preservation Parks wrote on social media on June 15. 

"Larger birds such as blue jays, starlings, robins, and grackles seem to be most noticeably affected, but other birds may be affected as well," the park continued.

Until the cause is determined, officials have removed bird feeders from their parks to avoid any possible spread if the issue does happen to be caused by individual contact with other birds.


American robin displaying symptoms. This picture was taken by Kristi Anderson and posted to the Preservation Parks of Delaware County Facebook page on June 15,2021. (Preservation Parks of Delaware County)

"Unfortunately there are too many unknowns at this point," a spokesperson with Preservation Parks told FOX Television Stations. "The disease was brought to our attention by a park visitor who shared her picture of the robin that we used in our Facebook post."

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The news comes after wildlife managers in Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia received reports of sick and dying birds with the same symptoms: eye swelling, crusty discharge and neurological issues. 

A spokesperson with the Ohio Wildlife Center told FOX Television Stations that its center has had several cases of patients with these conditions in the past several weeks.

Birds congregating at feeders and baths can transmit disease to one another. The United States Geological Survey recommends that the public in outbreak areas cease feeding birds until the wildlife mortality event has concluded. Residents should clean feeders and bird baths with 10% bleach solution, avoid handling birds if possible and keep pets away from sick or dead birds.

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According to the National Wildlife Health Center, state and district agencies are continuing to work with diagnostic laboratories to investigate the cause of the bird deaths. Those laboratories include the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the University of Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program.

If you encounter sick or dead birds, USGS suggests contacting your state or District wildlife conservation agency. If you must remove dead birds, place them in a sealable plastic bag to dispose with household trash. 

USGS says additional information will be shared as diagnostic results are received.