FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky Fish & Wildlife now recommends three additional counties take down bird feeders as experts say about 250 reports of sick or dead birds could be tied to a mysterious illness.
People in Madison, Campbell, and Bullitt counties have been asked to remove feeders in addition to those in Boone, Kenton, and Jefferson counties.
In other counties, Fish & Wildlife continues to recommend people clean feeders often with a ten percent bleach solution.
The update comes after Fish & Wildlife opened an online reporting system on June 17 and had received about 1,400 submissions as of Friday, according to Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Christine Casey.
Of those submissions, about 250 appear to be related to this unknown illness, she said, which includes symptoms of eye swelling, crusty discharge, and neurological signs.
"We're recommending taking down the feeders as a precautionary step because feeders do congregate animals and can increase the transmission of pathogens in general," Casey said in a video call with reporters Friday.
The illness has now been reported in birds in several states, including Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.
Samples have been sent to the University of Georgia for testing, Casey said, and while the cause of the illness has not been determined, several things have been ruled out.
The cause of the illness is not salmonella, chlamydia, avian influenza, or West Nile virus, according to a news release from Kentucky Fish & Wildlife.
The reports are a concern for bird lovers like Tony Brusate, President of the Central Kentucky Audubon Society.
"If it's spreading as quickly as it is then people who appreciate birds and love birds and like watching birds really need to be convincing the birds to socially distance right now," he said.
He's encouraged members of the organization to take down feeders as a precaution, regardless of their location in Kentucky.
"People should take it seriously," he said.
Reports of sick or dead birds can be submitted online here: 2021 KY Sick Bird Reports