**KAZ**

Keeping Our Birds And Ourselves Healthy

14 posts in this topic

KEEPING OUR BIRDS AND OURSELVES HEALTHY BY HANS SIBUM

 

 

As has been mentioned before, this is a very important topic for me personally. As a very keen exhibition Budgerigars fancier, it is devastating to me to have to realize that I am one of the 4% of budgerigar fanciers that has succumbed to what is commonly known as “Budgerigars Fanciers Lung”.

What is Budgerigar Fanciers Lung?

 

Studies have shown that this disease is very common indeed. Budgerigar Fanciers Lung (or Allergic alveolitis) is not isolated to Budgerigar fanciers alone. “Pigeon Lung”, is a very common ailment amongst pigeon fanciers. Canary breeders too, can suffer from a similar ailment. Poultry breeders and owners of hatcheries and egg laying businesses often have to take precautions because of lung problems. Farmers lung is very common amongst farm workers who deal with dusty and mouldy feed and animal poop. This illness for Budgerigar fanciers, comes about as a direct result of too much exposure to feather dander, and other precipitins such as droppings, lice, mite and mould in feathers as a result of keeping and housing birds. There is also strong evidence that this exposure and the illness that result, can come from keeping as little as one budgerigar indoors or twenty birds in an aviary situation. It therefore concludes that we exhibition Budgerigar fanciers are at great risk of developing allergic lung reactions simply due to the fact that we keep so many birds (100 to 400) in a concentrated environment.

How does this illness come about?

 

The answer to this question is very simple indeed. Budgerigar Fanciers Lung comes about from breathing in all those nasty precipitins that float around in the air as our birds shed them in the breeding rooms and aviaries. These precipitins are not only found in feather dander and bird poop. It has been proven that the incidence of mite in the feathers of our birds also is a major cause of allergy. Studies done of pigeon feathers have shown that as much as 10% of the weight of some feathers was made up of various mites. These can cause severe reactions in human respiratory systems as they are inhaled.

What are the symptoms?

 

In my case I suffered a dry cough for a couple of years. I had a lung function test done four years ago at my Doctors surgery. This showed up very good lung function both inhaling and exhaling. My Doctor said I had very good lungs; in fact my figures were equivalent to those of an athlete. However I was starting to notice that I couldn’t keep up with the kids I was coaching in an under sixteen soccer competition. I wasn’t willing to put this down to the fact that I was getting older. I was coughing quite badly when I went from a warm room into a cold room or vice versa. Smells of cleaning fluids and chemicals started my coughing fits and I was now sneezing quite a lot. This got so bad that eventually I found it difficult to do my work as my nose was always runny and often bleeding as well. Eventually this progressed to a build up of fluids in my lungs which I found particularly difficult to clear. My mucous membranes were always irritated and my sinus would drain at night as I slept making me quite uncomfortable. At first I didn’t worry too much, but as time went on I became slightly breathless after even minor activity. Upon visiting my Doctor and mentioning to him that I kept birds, I was put on Doxycycline tablets for four months as his and my first diagnosis was Chlamydia Pssittaci. When this didn’t seem to help I had lung x-rays taken and these didn’t really show anything to be overly concerned about. When the coughing persisted and in fact worsened I had some pathology done on my lung sputum by a Bacteriarologist. This resulted in a diagnosis of Chlamydia Pneumonia, which is a community acquired Pneumonia. I was then prescribed another two months of Doxycycline. When symptoms persisted and progressed even worse, I knew I had to get to the bottom of my lung condition. My Doctor booked me in a Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital, where I had about 6 hours of lung tests done, (Inhalation provocation tests). I was placed in a booth and made to inhale oxygen mixed with Saline and allergens at increasing percentages. This showed up that my lungs had lost about 19% of their function from my last tests. This is classed as nearing diagnosis to a severe asthmatic. (Severe is when 20% or more is measured in the lung tests). It was at this time I began to realize that I had to take this condition very seriously. The lung Specialist at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital told me that if I persisted in my avian pursuits I would eventually become a severe patient. She told me that she has many patients who at forty years of age find it difficult to walk up a flight of stairs. Her advice was this; “Give up your birds or you will get very sick”. I decided I wouldn’t tell my wife or family what the doctor had said as I loved this hobby. I started wearing a mask whenever I was cleaning in my birdroom or aviary. I began to notice that I was getting itchy when I put my hands in seed or when I opened the nest boxes to look at my babies. I also sneezed almost uncontrollably whenever I was in the bird room. My Doctor then sent me to an Allergy/Lung Specialist. Test conformed I had become allergic to house dust mite, mould and fungus, some chemicals (bleach, solvents etc) and bird dander and poop.

Surprisingly the specialist was not at all perturbed by my allergies. He told me that it is very common. He put me on a weekly course of needles. Allergens were pumped into my body for 18 months and this was intended to stimulate my immune system to combat the adverse reaction to allergens. As time went on I had on a few of occasions embarked on overseas holidays to Asia with my wife. It was she who noticed I wasn’t coughing and sneezing when I was in a bird free environment. Bingo, she hit the nail on the head, and together we decided that it would be best for my health if I sold my birds. My last lung function test (a month ago) showed that my lungs were on the improve and that my reaction to allergens had already lessened. I have been bird free for four or five weeks now and have hardly sneezed in that time. I haven’t had a nose bleed for about four months. The needles are definitely helping and have kicked my immune system into a higher level of protection.

Are all fanciers going to become allergic?

 

Of course not all fanciers will become allergic to their birds and their hobby. However it would be foolish of us to expect that we will be amongst those fortunate enough to carry on year in year out and remain perfectly healthy. Statistics from numerous surveys have shown that a fair percentage of bird fanciers end up with some lung disorder or another. The most common age group of sufferers is around the age of fifty years of age.

A survey carried out in North America among 1005 outpatient clinic Allergy suffers, found that 117 (12%) were current budgerigars fanciers and that 296 (29%) were former fanciers. These figures are quite staggering. It also showed that recovery in many cases, after cessation of exposure, could take many years. Most sufferers were cured within about two years of ceasing exposure to precipitins. Some are cured but react as soon as they are re-exposed to budgerigars.

A survey carried out in England found that among Budgerigar fanciers in the general population, Budgerigar Fanciers Lung was as high as between 6.5% and 7.5%. This is similar to the prevalence of farmer’s lung in farm workers. This indicates that Budgerigar Fanciers Lung is by far the most common type of allergic alveolitis in Britain.

Should I take these figures seriously?

 

Only a fool would look at the abovementioned statistics and continue to ignore the dangers of exposure to Budgerigar dander, mites, mould and droppings. It makes good sense to look at your birdroom, your aviaries and the health of yourself and your birds, in an effort to deduce whether you can do anything at all to keep the whole environment healthy.

 

How can I avoid exposure to these nasties?

 

Before stating the obvious a few simple personal tests can be carried out. I will ask these in a question format for you to work out.

 

* Does your skin and throat tighten up after exposure to your birds?

* Do you have a persistent cough?

* Do you have fluid on your lungs when you wake up in the mornings?

* Does your skin itch when coming into contact with seed and grains?

* Are suffering from breathlessness after activity?

* Do you discover layers of dust on shelves and surfaces in your birdroom?

* Can you see the dust particles floating around in the air of the birdroom and aviaries?

* If the answer is yes to any of the above, you are at risk of allergic alveolitis.

 

 

You can avoid some of the exposure by doing some of the following;

 

* Ensure your birds are free of lice and mites.

* Ensure there is ample movement of fresh outside air into your aviary and birdroom.

* If possible have dust extractors fitted to birdrooms.

* Use an ioniser in the birdroom. This will negative charge all dust particles and cause them to drop to the floor. Do maintain your ioniser or they will become ineffective.

* Wear a suitable dust mask when handling or cleaning your birds and rooms.

* Vacuum regularly with a high quality vacuum cleaner that has a filtration device fitted. (Ask your merchant). Don’t use a broom to sweep up dust.

* Use a damp cloth when wiping surfaces and trays.

* If possible have one side of the breeding room open to the outside air so that breezes will extract the foul air.

* Fit whirly birds to the roof of your aviaries and birdrooms.

* Wash your clothes after cleaning flights and birdroom.

* Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and wash your hands after removing the gloves.

* Avoid using fans that blow the dust around your birdroom.

* Wash your hands with suitable alcohol based cleaners after handling your birds and don’t put your fingers in your mouth. If you bite your nails, now is a good time to stop.

* If you smoke, you are at greater risk of lung damage. Stop smoking please.

 

These are just some of the things we need to do as part of our normal daily activity in our birdrooms and aviaries. Common sense tells us that in the world we live in, with all the dangerous pollutants we are exposed to already, we would be foolhardy to not try to minimise health risks.

A good solid Quarantine plan, sensible use of medications, a healthy varied diet, good disease control, intelligent planning of construction of bird rooms and aviaries and good personal hygiene are just some of the things we can do to keep the airspace as clean as possible.

If you are concerned about the health of your respiratory system, see you Doctor and don’t take no for an answer. If problems persist, insist on doing every test possible, and see a Lung and allergy specialist. Your health is more important that your hobby.

I have spoken to many people in the hobby about my allergy problems. Some have told me that they too suffer from coughing and fluid on the lungs. Some don’t realize that they have a persistent dry cough. Others assume Chlamydia Pssittaci as soon as a cough develops. It may be, but it also may be something else.

 

ASK YOUR DOCTOR.

 

 

I hope this has been informative.

 

Hans Sibum

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im having second thoughs about keeping a budgie in my room.

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i did not read this thread yet but just want to say i will be and thank you kaz for posting as i was very interested in this and wanted to know how you got budgie lung as i call it

will look forward to sitting with coffee ron and reading fully ;)

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i did not read this thread yet but just want to say i will be and thank you kaz for posting as i was very interested in this and wanted to know how you got budgie lung as i call it

will look forward to sitting with coffee ron and reading fully :rofl:

The author of this article, Hans, sent it to me today to be used here on our forum for good advice to breeders ;)

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Thanks for this Kaz. I didn't fully understand why Hans had to give up his birds - I knew it was health related but didn't understand what Budgie Lung was.

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wow that relly hit the spot wow i did not know it was that common thanks for that kaz and a big thank's to Hans

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Thanks for posting this Kaz. Good information.

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well i read it finally and must say very very good read thank you both hans and you kaz

i dont know if you remember me once telling you kaz that i thought i was alergic to my birds but

it wasnt to long ago around time my flock was bit unwell

well i will now be looking into this as i have being getting laughed at by fam and doctor by sugesting i was i now will be printing this off and getting a cheak as my condition has been over the 6 months gotten worse

i do sneeze around my birds most times im near them

i also get my throught close over and feels like ive taken up smoking again of late

however i will not give up birds i will just be more cautious to things

it wouldnt suprize me if i was allergic as im allergic to alot of things one more wont kill me (i hope)

i do not think i have this disorder but it will help to show my family that birds can be a health hazard

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Hans article will definitely help you take steps to improving your health GB and or getting checked out by the dr.

 

I also posted Hans's show breeder interview in the show breeder interview section......last night :D

 

 

 

http://forums.budgiebreeders.asn.au/index....showtopic=28447

Edited by KAZ

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Hans article will definitely help you take steps to improving your health GB and or getting checked out by the dr.

 

I also posted Hans's show breeder interview in the show breeder interview section......last night :D

 

 

 

http://forums.budgiebreeders.asn.au/index....showtopic=28447

 

yes read it it thank you hun :)

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Great...... I'm already allergic to everything.....and now there is a chance I will develop another. I'm allergic to dust mites, dry grass, a sort of pollen, peanuts, cats, dogs, rabbits and horses, which is basically animal fur in general. The peanut one is very serious too. :P

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Unfortunately I'm definitely a candidate for this as I get the itchy skin from seed, allergic to dust and dust mites, runny nose at large bird shows and react to any enclosed bird room I enter that is not completely ventilated. In my previous conventional avairy cleaning was a nightmare and even when wearing a face mask I would often exit with nose blocked, coughing continously, sometimes coughing up blood.

 

However I changed the way I keep budgies and it is now non-conventional as far as us budgie breeders are concerned. I use a series of suspended aviaries (like a lot of parrot breeders use) so the cage floors are all suspended wire and the birds are exposed to the elements much more than an enclosed environment. As it is an outdoor setup this results in a dust free environment and I have none of the previous problems. It's not for everyone as it limits the number of birds I can keep due to space and cost of the aviaries but at least it lets me partake of the hobby. A side benefit is I feel my birds are also healthier now.

 

Great article by the way, people need to be aware of this.

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Only read this now! But goodness me am I a victim of this! I've been asthmatic and allergic all my life! I noticed for past 4 months i battle breathing and have sinus and severe hay fever. I am allergic to sunflower seeds and linseed. Also grass and pollen and dust mites. I hose my Outdoor Aviary down but often sweep b4. So will wear mask as I am 55 years old and I do not want to give up my last joy in life.........

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hello and sorry for bumping this thread. but I am concerned about this disease. I have had a budgie for 10 years (got him when I was 12 and am 22 now). He is in my bedroom for most of the time (however I put him outside when I can, but I work early and late so its usually only on the weekends). I will admit that I have always been lazy on the cleaning, I usually only clean his cage once a week and I can go weeks (even more) without vacuuming my room. when he is in my room, he is free to fly (so I assume a flying budgie in a room will produce a lot of airborne particles).

 

Since finding out about this, I am very concerned about my own health, and i think i will give him to my grandmother who has a large outdoor aviary. but removing the bird mean that this disease will no longer be a problem? I'm 22 and don't really fancy dying at 50.

 

I also, have been exposed to many different things bad for your lungs through my occupation, but this bird lung is worrying me the most.

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