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Public asked to report sightings of dead birds

25 September 2000

Public asked to report sightings of dead birds

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Conservation are asking for public support in the investigation sparrow deaths recently reported from several parts of New Zealand. Members of the public are asked to alert DOC offices to sightings of groups of dead birds.

Birds, mainly sparrows, have been found dead in Canterbury, Marlborough and Hamilton during the past couple of months. MAF, and DOC are investigating to ascertain the extent of the problem.

A few ducks and quail have also died from pecking shavings contaminated with sparrow faeces.

Tests on several birds have identified Salmonella Typhimurium as the likely cause of death. Phage typing of one of the sparrow isolates identifies it as phage type 160. Salmonellosis is a common cause of bird deaths in winter, but this particular phage type 160 has not previously been recognised as a significant cause of death in New Zealand birds.

Salmonella can be transferred to humans and animals through contaminated faeces. As a precaution, people should not touch dead sparrows or their droppings, and should follow general good hygiene practises, such as washing hands before handling food. Symptoms of salmonellosis in people include diarrhoea and vomiting.
To report sightings of dead birds, contact your local Department of Conservation office.

For further information call:
Roger Poland, MAF Programme Coordinator, Surveillance. Telephone: 04-498-9820
Gita Parsot, MAF Communications. Telephone: 04-498-9806
Geoff Hicks, CTO Biosecurity, DOC. Telephone 04-471-3063

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