Mysterious disease blinding birds in several states, leaving them unable to fly

U.S. and World

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Wildlife experts are monitoring a scary mystery affliction that is leaving birds blind and dying.

Since the start of this June, the Ohio Wildlife Center identified multiple cases of an unknown illness in songbird species across Central Ohio, but the disease has also been identified in other states like Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Indiana, and West Virginia.

The symptoms include a white crust in birds’ eyes that leads to blindness, and damage to their nervous system, rendering them unable to fly.

“So we’re not seeing it in our ducks, and we’re not seeing it in our hawks, but we do see it in birds like crows or birds like morning doves,” said Stormy Gibson, interim executive director for the Ohio Wildlife Center.

On June 9, the U.S. Geological Survey issued a statement saying that the USGS, along with a number of park and wildlife groups, are investigating after officials in Washington D.C., Maryland and West Virginia started receiving reports of “sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge” in late May.

Experts are now asking for the public’s help in preventing the spread.

“We’re asking people to take down their bird feeders, to stop feeding for a couple of weeks, and that our hope is to maybe stop the spread of whatever disease this is,” said Gibson.

If you happen to encounter a bird with these symptoms and wish to bring it in for treatment, veterinarians ask that you wear proper PPE when handling them.

“We always ask people if they find anything injured, ill or sick, that they can bring it to our wildlife hospital. So if you see a bird with crusty eyes, or maybe a bird that is unable to fly, or has some neurological issues we’re asking people to always wear gloves when handling any animal that is sick, to put it into a box, and bring it to our wildlife hospital,” said Gibson.

There have been several theories online that cicadas infected with pesticides may be causing these symptoms. So far, wildlife experts have said that is mere speculation since the disease has also appeared in states where cicadas are not present.

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