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Can You Get Sick From Touching a Duck?

Can You Get Sick From Touching a Duck

Petting with your waterfowl is fun, but can you get sick from touching a duck? Many bird owners neglect the risks involved with diseases ducks carry.

But if you want to keep yourself and your ducks free from infections and transmittable diseases, you landed on the right page.

In this article, we’ll discuss the answer to the following questions:

  • Can you get sick from touching a duck
  • Can you get sick from a duck scratch?
  • And what are the diseases you can get from birds?

We’ll also help you prevent infection from ducks to humans by giving you precautionary tips and insight into how to care for waterfowl creatures.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into it and answer the question, “can you get sick from touching a duck” to gain more insights into waterfowl.

Can You Get Sick From Touching A Duck?

Sadly, yes! Direct contact with poultry birds like chickens and ducks can cause and spread infections to humans.

Ducks may carry viruses without showing any signs. So, when a bird owner or caretaker gets exposed to the infected waterfowl, he’s at a high risk of developing diseases.

Often, sick birds shed and spread bacteria through their droppings and respiratory secretions. And even when their wastes and secretions dry, the small particles carrying those bacteria get into the air and infect people when inhaled.

But, Can You Get Sick From a Duck Scratch?

Germs and bacteria can spread from poultry and waterfowl bites, scratches, and pecks, even if the wound doesn’t seem serious. So, don’t neglect the scratches from your ducks, and wash them with soap and warm water immediately.

Now that we’ve already answered the question, “can you get sick from touching a duck,” you may be wondering what diseases you can get from them.

So, in the next section, we’ll discuss the different diseases ducks carry.

Top 8 Diseases You Can Get from Ducks

Although ducks are healthy and don’t show any signs of being sick, they could carry diseases. Some of it can affect their fellow flocks, and some could transfer to humans.

So, here is the list of diseases you can get from ducks and how to prevent them.


Psittacosis disease is caused by the bacteria called Chlamydia psittaci. It can be found in your duck’s saliva, feces, and other respiratory secretions.

Infected ducks can show lethargy, weight loss, and feather ruffling. Once transmitted to humans, it can cause fever, headache, chills, and pneumonia.

If you notice the symptoms in your ducks, treat them with antibiotics and isolate them to prevent transmission. 


This infection is caused by the E. coli (Escherichia Coli) bacteria. These bacteria would pass through your gastrointestinal tract and target your digestive system.

The common signs of this bacteria on ducks are the same as Psittacosis. But clinical signs in humans are diarrhea, vomiting, and pain in the abdominal part. 

Like Psittacosis, colibacillosis is curable with antibiotics. But if not treated, it could lead to serious kidney failure.

Avian Influenza

Avian Influenza is also called “bird flu.” This infection is not harmful to humans. However, if it gets worse, it can affect respiration.

Infected birds can suffer from loss of appetite, weight, and thirsty feelings. So, your ducks need rest, fluids, and pain relievers.

But if not treated, it could lead to pneumonia and other infections in the respiratory system. So, they should be hospitalized for immediate care.


This is the most common bacteria spread through ducks that can be transmitted to humans. They are primarily found in contaminated food like raw eggs, meat, and unpasteurized milk.

Salmonella bacteria can spread through swallowing and direct contact with contaminated food, water, and surfaces. And it can infect humans through contact with duck feathers and waste like feces.

Infected ducks show symptoms like lethargy, dehydration, and diarrhea, while infected humans will feel headaches, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

If you notice one or two of those signs in you and your ducks, consult doctors or veterinarians immediately.


It is an infection in the intestines that is caused by Campylobacter bacteria. Common symptoms of this infection are weight loss, dehydration, diarrhea, and, if untreated, could cause death.

Humans will also be infected and feel cramps, fever, and diarrhea. But luckily, it’s preventable and can be treated with antibiotics.


It is a parasitic infection caused by Cryptosporidium parvum, that targets the gastrointestinal tract.

This parasite could spread through contaminated water and food or direct contact with infected ducks.

Infected ducks will experience lethargy, weight loss, diarrhea, or in worse cases, death. In humans, it causes vomiting, nausea, and watery diarrhea.

There are no exact medications for this infection, only relievers, so you must avoid dehydration.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis

This is another viral infection that could infect ducks and even humans. It can transfer through bites of mosquitoes.

It affects waterfowl badly because they may experience paralysis, convulsion, and even death in some ducks. On the other hand, humans could have headaches, fever, seizures, and, worse, a coma.

Because this case is rare, there’s no provided treatment for this infection. You only need to protect yourself and your ducks from averting mosquito bites.

Newcastle Disease

This viral infectious disease is also caused by direct contact with infected birds and contaminated food, water, and surfaces like equipment.

Newcastle on ducks can cause depression, uncontrolled thirst, appetite loss, cough, and sneezing. If untreated, it could lead to paralysis and death.

Though it’s not threatening to humans, it sometimes causes flu, like fever, headaches, and muscle pain.

But the good news is it is preventable by vaccines and proper hygiene.

How to Prevent Getting Sick from Ducks

How to Prevent Getting Sick from Ducks

No one is exempted from getting sick, especially when exposed to different waterfowl. However, you can prevent the spread of diseases by following the tips below:

Avoid Touching Ducks

Don’t attempt to touch ducks or chicks if you have a weak immune system.

Children under five years old and the elderly are usually prone to sickness. So, they should be kept away from dirty waterfowl.

Wash Your Hands

If you’re a hands-on duck owner, you probably love spending time and playing with your ducks. But since ducks carry different organisms that could cause diseases, make sure to wash your hands to avoid catching transmittable diseases.

Washing hands with soap and water within at least 20 seconds would kill germs and viruses.

So, always remember to clean your hands after touching your flocks or their food and feces. And, if you have children, supervise them in proper hand washing.

Use Hand Sanitizer

If water and soap are unavailable in your duck’s area, temporarily use hand sanitizer for protection before washing your hands. Then wash your hands once you get home.

Keep Every Area Clean

It’s imperative to thoroughly clean all the areas where your ducks stay or roam, for example, in ducks and duckling’s cages or living areas of enclosure or anywhere they might have access. 

But still, you need to wash your hands after cleaning.

Keep Ducks Away From Your Foods

To avoid contamination of your food from germs and viruses, keep your ducks away from the kitchen or food storage. 

Avoid Overcrowding

Overcrowding in one area can easily spread diseases. Besides, they could also have foot diseases.

So, if you have a lot of ducks, it’s better to provide a vast space to avoid overcrowding.

Isolate and Provide Treatment for Infected Ducks

Once you notice signs and symptoms of ducks getting infected, immediately isolate them to protect them and prevent spreading to other flocks. 

If they get sick, ask your veterinarian for immediate treatment to help your ducks easily recover.

Use PPE When You’re Handling Ducks

Personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, gowns, and eye protection are required when you touch or carry infected ducks.

Even if your waterfowl seem healthy and don’t show signs, wear your PPE, especially when cleaning.

Get Full Vaccination

Having vaccination not only protects you from getting sick but also it’s prevention for your ducks possible. If they are healthy, then you and your family are also safe.

Don’t Nuzzle or Kiss Your Ducks

Avoid lip or mouth contact with your ducks or chicks, such as nuzzling and kissing. It is the fastest way of transmitting diseases. 

Because they love foraging and dipping their head even in dirty water, you might get infected.

Keep Your Ducks Outside or Away From Home

You may lessen your risk of contracting any bacteria or viruses they could be carrying by keeping ducks away from your home.

It may be difficult if they are your pets, but protecting your family’s safety should always be a top priority.

Avoid Doing Other Things After Handling Ducks

Don’t touch your mouth or eat, smoke, or drink after direct contact with your ducks. Avoiding handling ducks when you’re eating or preparing meals is the best method to prevent getting sick from them.

If you must contact ducks while eating, wash your hands first.

Avoid Using Kitchen Sink When Cleaning Duck’s Supplies

It might be easy for you, but using an outdoor hose or sink is better. This way, you can prevent Salmonella from spreading to your kitchen surfaces. 

Strengthen Biosecurity

Aside from those tips, having good biosecurity would protect your ducks from getting infected with germs and viruses. If they are free from diseases, then you are also safe.

How to Protect Your Ducks

How to Care and Protect Your Ducks?

Ducks could easily adapt to the environment, except for those newborn ducklings, because they need more attention and higher room temperature.

But poultry beginners might wonder how to care for and protect their ducks against predators. Here are the things they need to survive and feel safe.

Well-fenced shelter

This will protect ducks from being attacked by predators and animal lifters, especially at night. Put up a durable fence with at least 3-foot heights to keep enclosed.

Clean and dry shelter

Although ducks love foraging in wet areas and ponds, they need shelter to rest, clean, retreat, and preen feathers. It would help them keep warm and protect their skin from any injury.

Provide an area for foraging

Foraging is an innate need and activity for waterfowl, so they must have enough space, depending on their size and numbers. It would also be great if they had swimming areas and green surroundings.

Clean drinking water

Though ducks might drink water from ponds or any areas with water, they should have clean ones to stay hydrated and safe. Having a swimming pool for them is unnecessary as long as the temperature is not high.

Provide enough food

Ducks need quality feed to grow healthy and strong. But avoid spoiled or contaminated feed. Ducks also love insects like bugs and worms, so it can be a great treat for them. 

Light stimulation

Laying ducks and those newborn ducklings need enough light to warm their body. So be sure to give them a good source of warmth to help them survive and thrive.

Disease protection

To maintain good health and avoid health risks, ducks need vitamins and minerals, like calcium and niacin, for their body.

If they already get sick, over-the-counter or veterinary medications and supplements could help them recover.

diseases ducks carry

What Happens When You Get Too Close to Your Ducks and Poultry?

Getting close to your waterfowl is normal when raising ducks yourself. But you need to be careful to avoid contracting diseases.

For example, Salmonella, the common bacteria from chickens and waterfowl, affected 895 people in the first quarter of 2016 and caused vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. 

It is even life-threatening if not treated. So, it’s always essential to maintain cleanliness in your duck’s area to avoid build-up germs and avoid interaction with sick birds.

Keeping your children away from ducks and ducklings, especially when dirty, would also protect them from getting sick.

can you catch diseases from ducks

Common Questions About Getting Sick From Ducks

Aside from the question, “can you get sick from touching a duck” we also compiled the answer to the questions to give you more insight into the risks of raising ducks.

Can humans get sick from ducks?

Even though you love your ducks, sadly, the answer is yes. You could get Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Chlamydia psittaci.

These are all infectious diseases common in ducks, which could cause diarrheal illness, Psittacosis, stomach cramps, and fever. It can only be mild or might get worse.

Can you get sick from touching a bird?

Touching a bird can be dangerous or not. However, they sometimes carry infectious germs that can make you sick.

Although there are rare cases of humans that get infected, it’s always important to secure your and your family’s health. It should be your priority when planning or raising birds like chickens and ducks.

Can you catch anything from a duck?

Aside from Salmonella, Psittacosis can also be caught from pet birds like chickens and ducks.

Always remember that ducks don’t often show signs and symptoms if infected. So, it can be hard to determine if it carries harmful organisms.

Can you get Salmonella from a duck?

Absolutely, yes. Even if your flocks look healthy, strong, active, and clean, they can carry microbial organisms like salmonella.

Raising them has good effects on your living, but at the same time, it can be alarming, especially for your family’s health.

Do ducks carry viruses?

Other than germs, ducks can also carry viruses like the bird flu virus. It is rare, but it’s possible, especially for those who have direct and unprotected contact with the infected bird.

Those wild water birds, like ducks and geese, infected with this virus, usually don’t show any signs of getting sick.

Can you get bird flu from touching a bird?

Yes, because touching is a way of direct contact with the bird, especially when you’re unprotected with tools like gloves.

Once you touch an infected bird, it can easily transfer the flu to your hand. And, when you directly touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus will enter your body.

Can you get E. Coli from ducks?

E. coli or Escherichia coli from contaminated food and water can also be carried by ducks, especially Mallards or wild ducks. They can be a reservoir or susceptible habitat of this zoonotic E. coli.

When we say zoonotic, it only means that the E Coli bacteria can be transferred from ducks to humans. And it can cause intestinal diseases.

Do ducks carry the flu?

As mentioned above, flu can be carried by birds like ducks and chickens. These bird flu viruses can be transferred by direct contact between the bird and the contaminated surfaces and in the air.

It can enter from your eyes, nose, and mouth and pass through your nasal passage up to your lungs.

Can wild ducks make you sick?

All ducks are the same whether they are wild or not. That’s why they can carry germs, bacteria, and viruses that can make you sick.

But, because Mallards or wild species of ducks are not domesticated, they might show different characteristics than ducks.

Can you touch a wild duck?

Wild ducks are not fond of humans because they are not domesticated unless you raise ducks at a young age until they are growing up.

At first, they might feel scared and show aggressiveness when you approach them.

Is it safe to touch a duck?

If you want to show affection to your ducks, touching or carrying them is not bad. However, touching the infected ducks could bring danger to your health.

So, it’s always essential to protect yourself from germs, bacteria, and viruses by doing the prevention tips stated above.

Do ducks have germs?

Germs are everywhere. They are present in different living or non-living things we touch, like in our ducks.

As mentioned above, Salmonella is the most common germ from ducks that could get us sick. But you don’t have to worry too much because they are preventable.

What to do after touching a bird?

As mentioned earlier, touching bird-like ducks is unsafe when infected with germs and viruses. However, the first and essential thing you can do to protect yourself from getting sick after touching them is to wash your hands.

Use soap and wash your hands thoroughly. It can kill germs and viruses within 20 seconds. Then rinse it with water.

can you get sick from handling ducks

Can You Get Sick From Touching A Duck: The Final Recap

So, if we’d sum it all up and answer the question, can you get sick from touching a duck? It’s plain to see that it’s a YES!

Diseases carried by ducks, such as Salmonella, Psittacosis, Colibacillosis, Avian Influenza, and Campylobacteriosis, can spread to humans through direct contact with the bird and its droppings.

And the worse part is even the dust particles from dry droppings may carry those bacteria.

So, it can be risky not just for you but for your family as well. But you can control the spread of the disease by following the precautionary measures above.

Getting lovey-dovey with your favorite duck can be tempting, but you can avoid spreading diseases by taking precautions and keeping their shelter clean.

READ NEXT: 8 Diseases You Can Get From Ducks

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