It’s amazing where infectious disease discussions can develop (at least for strange people like me). I was having a conversation with Dr. Mike Taylor (an avian and exotics specialist at the Ontario Veterinary College) after hockey the other night, and we started talking about infectious diseases.

Mike has done a lot of work with proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), a serious disease of psittacine birds. Recently a virus (avian bornavirus) has been identified as the cause of the disease. One of Mike’s observations during field investigations was that avian facilities that used a two-bowl cleaning system seemed to have a lower incidence of disease. In this type of system, the feed bowl in each bird enclosure is removed each day and replaced with a clean one. The dirty bowl is then cleaned, disinfected and allowed to dry until it is used again the next day. The system is quite easy to implement and allows for thorough disinfection of bowls. Cleaning and replacing the same bowl each day presumably results is a quicker and less thorough disinfection, and does not allow for a period of drying.  Bornavirus is fairly easily killed with proper cleaning, disinfection and drying, but can survive in a bowl that is not adequately cleaned. This two-bowl system may have helped kill more of the virus that was deposited in the bowls.

This simple management tool might be useful for controlling PDD (and other diseases) in birds, and perhaps could indirectly reduce the risk of transmission of certain pathogens from birds to people. Avian bornavirus itself does not infect people.

Infection control isn’t rocket science. Simple, common-sense measures (like hand washing) are often the most important factors in the success or failure of disease prevention programs. Simple management tools such as this should be considered as part of routine activities to reduce the risk of various infectious diseases.