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J Infect. 2008 Feb;56(2):83-98. Epub 2007 Dec 21.

Human infections associated with wild birds.

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University of Athens Medical School, 1 Rimini Street, Xaidari, 12462 Athens, Greece.



Wild birds and especially migratory species can become long-distance vectors for a wide range of microorganisms. The objective of the current paper is to summarize available literature on pathogens causing human disease that have been associated with wild bird species.


A systematic literature search was performed to identify specific pathogens known to be associated with wild and migratory birds. The evidence for direct transmission of an avian borne pathogen to a human was assessed. Transmission to humans was classified as direct if there is published evidence for such transmission from the avian species to a person or indirect if the transmission requires a vector other than the avian species.


Several wild and migratory birds serve as reservoirs and/or mechanical vectors (simply carrying a pathogen or dispersing infected arthropod vectors) for numerous infectious agents. An association with transmission from birds to humans was identified for 10 pathogens. Wild birds including migratory species may play a significant role in the epidemiology of influenza A virus, arboviruses such as West Nile virus and enteric bacterial pathogens. Nevertheless only one case of direct transmission from wild birds to humans was found.


The available evidence suggests wild birds play a limited role in human infectious diseases. Direct transmission of an infectious agent from wild birds to humans is rarely identified. Potential factors and mechanisms involved in the transmission of infectious agents from birds to humans need further elucidation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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