We describe an investigation of an outbreak of conjunctivitis in juvenile House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) and California Scrub-jays (Aphelocoma californica) at a central California, US wildlife rehabilitation facility. In late May 2015, the facility began admitting juvenile finches, the majority with normal eyes at intake. In June, with juvenile finches already present, the facility admitted juvenile scrub-jays, all with normal eyes at intake. In July, after conjunctivitis was observed in increasing numbers of juvenile finches and scrub-jays, carcasses were submitted for postmortem examination. Histopathology of five finches and three scrub-jays identified lymphocytic infiltrates in the ocular tissues. Conjunctival swabs from 87% (13/15) finches and 33% (4/12) scrub-jays were PCR-positive for Mycoplasma gallisepticum. One finch and two scrub-jays were PCR-positive for Mycoplasma synoviae. Additionally, gene sequencing (16S ribosomal RNA and 16S-23S intergenic spacer region) identified Mycoplasma sturni from 33% (3/9) scrub-jays. This outbreak of conjunctivitis suggested that M. gallisepticum-infected juvenile finches admitted to and maintained in a multispecies nursery likely resulted in transmission within the facility to healthy juvenile finches and scrub-jays. Evidence of other Mycoplasma spp. in finches and scrub-jays indicates that these species are susceptible to infection and may act as carriers. This outbreak highlighted the need for effective triage and biosecurity measures within wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2