Campus News

Veterinary pathologist discusses avian disease questions

Nicole Nemeth, a veterinary pathologist at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia, was recently quoted in a Discover Magazine article discussing questions in avian health.

The emergence of a new disease affecting songbirds has many bird ecologists, researchers and enthusiasts asking questions. Young songbirds are appearing disoriented with crusty eyes, accompanied by neurological symptoms and death. The unknown disease has been reported in at least 10 states across the East and Midwest, likely following the fledgling season.

Nemeth is concerned, “[b]ecause we don’t know what exactly is causing it, we don’t know how to predict it or when it might happen again, you know, and that worries me a bit.”

Pathologists have examined bird specimens in the hopes of discovering the cause of these symptoms, to no avail. “That’s still a little bit of a mystery,” Nemeth said. “We haven’t seen anything obvious in the brains.”

Nemeth, along with other researchers, emphasized the importance of citizen science and reporting in studying the spread of the disease through the United States, saying, “People being interested, aware and caring about wildlife health is super important.”