Catching diseases from caged birds is not a common occurrence, and if keeping budgies you do not need to exercise more than the standard precautions – i.e. keeping everything, including your hands, clean. However, at-risk groups with weak immune systems (infants, the elderly, the sick) should be far more cautious, and avoid handling budgies altogether.
Budgies don't normally present a health hazard
Can Humans Catch Diseases From Budgies?
In brief, yes. But not very often!
Parrot fever or psittacosis is a bronchial disease commonly found in parrots. It is a common ailment, known as Chlamydiosis in general, or ornithosis when relating to birds. The disease usually lies dormant, without provoking symptoms in the bird, but can still be passed on via droppings or saliva and other bodily fluids, or in body dust (dander) shaken from the feathers. In humans, ingesting or inhaling a dose of the Chlamydiophila psittaci bacteria responsible for the disease can, if you’re unlucky, lead to illness.
The word ‘unlucky’ is very appropriate, as many people work with birds all their lives without ever showing any symptoms of the disease. But it still pays to be cautious. Always wash your hands after handling budgies or washing their cages.
Manifestations of parrot fever in humans range from flu-like symptoms and a sore throat to high fevers and diarrhoea.
Allergic alveolitis is a bronchial disease that occasionally affects humans, usually after several years’ contact with birds. This has earned it the name ‘pigeon fancier’s lung’, as a homage to those dedicated people who spend lots of time in pigeon lofts with their prized birds. It could just as easily be called ‘budgie fancier’s lung’, though, and does indeed have yet another name, ‘budgerigar (or parakeet) dander pneumoconiosis’. The cause of the problem is dust from bird feathers and dried droppings.
Once the asthma-like symptoms have manifested, continued exposure to the birds will make the condition worse. In its chronic form, if the sufferer has failed to stop breathing in the irritant, the process can no longer be reversed, and lung capacity will be permanently diminished.
Giardia is one of several intestine-incubated nasties found in birds, and is similar to the more well-known salmonella. It is transmitted via birds’ droppings, and can therefore contaminate cages, budgie water supplies and the surrounding ground (if your birds are outside). Diarrhoea-like symptoms hail the onset of a rapid decline and death in birds. Humans who contract the disease will suffer gastro-intestinal problems too.
You'd be very unlucky to catch a disease from a budgie
Budgies and Asthma
People prone to asthma will be affected by budgies. In severe cases the presence of a bird in the same room as the sufferer will bring on the wheezing and other symptoms, and the only solution is for that person to leave the room. Asthma sufferers with a less severe condition should be fine near budgies, but may start to show symptoms if the bird is free-flying.
This general asthmatic problem is not to be confused with the condition known as Allergic alveolitis, described above.