Is It Possible for a Human to Give a Cockatiel a Cold?

Respiratory infections in cockatiels are caused by bacteria, unlike the viral human cold.
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Your own runny nose, itchy eyes or hacking cough may make you nervous about spreading your cold to your avian companion. A cockatiel can develop a respiratory infection, but a 'tiel can't get a cold from you. He can, however, spread some not-so-pleasant bugs your way.

Human Cold

The human cold is no fun, causing sneezing, coughing, and runny eyes and nose. Thankfully, you can't transmit the common cold to your companion bird. More than 200 viruses can cause colds in humans, according to WebMD. The three most likely suspects are rhinovirus, coronavirus and the respiratory syncytial virus. Even though so many viruses can cause humans to come down with colds, you don’t have to worry about spreading one to your cockatiel.

Cockatiel Cold

While cockatiels don’t get colds, they can get respiratory infections with similar symptoms. The bacteria mycoplasma and chlamydophila are the most common causes of respiratory infection in cockatiels. Symptoms are similar to those of human colds, including watery eyes, sneezing, coughing and runny nose. However, contact with these bacteria doesn't always cause a cockatiel to get sick. Cockatiels can contract the bacteria and be asymptomatic. After diagnosis, treatment with antibiotics can clear up the infection.

Communicable Diseases

While you don’t pose a threat to your bird when you’ve got the sniffles, cockatiels are capable of carrying some diseases that can make you sick. Chlamydophila can cause parrot fever when spread to humans. It causes flu-like symptoms, and can lead to pneumonia. Cockatiels can also carry salmonella, which can be spread to humans. Very rarely, cockatiels can be carriers of staphylococcus, the bacteria responsible for MRSA, or staph infection.

Preventing Disease

Keeping your cockatiel from getting a respiratory infection involves keeping his immune system strong. If he’s on a seed-only diet, he won’t get enough vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to weak lining of the respiratory tract, easily infected by bacteria. Keeping your pal on a healthy diet will help to deter illness. Limiting your exposure to other birds and practicing good personal hygiene will limit your cockatiel's exposure to harmful bacteria. To keep your family disease-free, always wash your hands before and after handling your bird. If children, geriatrics or others with compromised immune systems live in your household, get your new cockatiel on antibiotics before you bring him home to eliminate the chlamydophila bacteria.

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