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Can Birds Get Rabies? Can You Get Rabies From Birds?

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ruby-throated hummingbird perched

Rabies is a viral disease that affects mammals but is most frequently found in wild animals. Because rabies only affects mammals, birds cannot get rabies, and you cannot get rabies from birds. Only other mammals can get rabies and give you rabies in return.

So, you have no reason to worry about rabies if you are dealing with a bird. However, understanding how rabies works and why birds are not affected by it can help you protect yourself from other animals.

hummingbird divider

Understanding Rabies

Rabies is a virus that belongs to the order mononegaviruses, which are viruses that have non-segmented and negative-stranded RNA genomes. There are different families and geniuses that belong to this order. The most relevant genus is Lyssavirus, which is the genus that rabies belongs to.

The only animals that are capable of getting rabies are mammals. Mammals classify as warm-blooded creatures with fur, mammary glands, and the capability to give birth to live young. Humans, cats, dogs, raccoons, and bats are all examples of mammals.

The thing about rabies is that it is completely preventable. If you or your pet get a rabies vaccine, they are not able to get rabies. For this reason, rabies is primarily found in wild animals, not humans and pets. In fact, about 93% of rabies is found specifically in wild animals. Raccoons happen to be the most commonly found animal with rabies.

Even though rabies is primarily an issue with wild animals, humans and pets can still get rabies because it is transmitted through direct contact. Most often, humans develop rabies because they are bitten by an infected animal. That being said, rabies can also be transmitted through broken skin or mucous membranes found in the eyes, nose, and mouth.

tufted titmouse during winter

Image Credit: MikeGoad, Pixabay

Birds And Rabies

Because rabies can only impact mammals, birds are completely incapable of getting rabies. Birds belong to the class Aves, which is a completely different class from mammals. So, birds cannot get or give rabies to any other creature.

Even if a bird is bitten by a wild animal with rabies, the bird cannot develop rabies itself. Likewise, a bird can’t give you rabies. You cannot get rabies from reptiles or fish either since they are not mammals.

In other words, you do not have to worry about rabies at all when dealing with pet and wild birds alike. Rabies is simply incompatible with birds.

What Diseases Can Humans Get From Birds?

Even though you cannot get rabies from birds, that does not mean that birds are completely safe to touch and play with. Wild birds especially can be dangerous to play with because they can expose you to a number of illnesses and diseases.

Most commonly, bacterial and fungal infections can be spread from birds to humans. Psittacosis, Histoplasmosis, and Cryptococcosis are the three most commonly reported diseases that humans catch from birds.

Because you can develop diseases from birds, it’s important to always wash your hands before and after handling one. Use warm water and soap anytime you touch a bird or clean its cage. Additionally, provide your pet bird a clean environment and good veterinary care to help prevent any infections.

male northern cardinal perched

Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

hummingbird dividerFinal Thoughts

Once again, birds cannot give you rabies, and they cannot get rabies. Rabies is a viral infection that can only impact mammals, and it is most common in wild animals such as raccoons and skunks. You can prevent yourself and your pets from getting rabies by getting a rabies vaccine.

Even though you cannot get or give rabies to birds, it does not mean you’re in the clear. Certain bacterial and fungal infections can be spread from birds to humans. Providing your pet bird with a clean environment and washing your hands after touching any type of bird will help to prevent these diseases.


Featured Image Credit: Veronika_Andrews, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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