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Researchers: Grackles could expose you or your pets to parasites, roundworms, salmonella

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Posted at 11:49 AM, Sep 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-24 14:44:23-04

As fall begins in Central Texas, professors at Texas A&M are warning of the diseases often carried by great-tailed grackles, birds notorious for hanging around in parking lots, parks and intersections.

Dr. Sarah Hamer, director of the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center and an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has dedicated her studies to learn about the potential disease-causing organisms that may be transmitted among the grackles and to people and other animals.

Hamer's team trapped birds in parking lots around Brazos County and collected blood and fecal samples from them. 

"We tested the feces of the grackles for Salmonella, a bacterium that lives in the gut of animals and can be excreted," she said. "Fecal contamination can lead to transmission of the Salmonella to other animals or humans. We found that a small percentage of the birds, 2 of 114 birds, or 1.8 percent, were shedding Salmonella in the feces."

Hamer says there is a chance for fecal exposure in pets when walking your dog on sidewalks, around city parks or in other areas where grackles are found.

When examining the blood of the grackle, Hamer found they were infected with tiny microscopic roundworms, protozoan parasites related to malaria and the West Nile virus.

Some of the parasites have the ability to spread to humans.

Hamer suggests owners keep their pets away from any disease-carrying bird and its feces to avoid exposure and contamination.

 "Avoiding avian feces, or any wildlife feces, is good practice in general," Hamer said. "If shopping carts are in parking lots with grackle roosts, washing the handles with a hand sanitizing wipe would also be wise."

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