KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Students at Tellico Plains Junior High School in Monroe County will spend the remainder of the year at Tellico Plains High School because of a bird mite infestation.
Bird mites are small arthropods barely visible to the naked eye. The mites must feed on birds to survive and cannot survive on people.
Karen Vail, a entomology professor at the University of Tennessee, says bird mites normally don’t pose a threat to humans.
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“Usually we don’t even know they are in the environment,” said Vail. “It’s not until the young birds fledge, or maybe strong rains kill the birds in their nests and the mites no longer have their host.”
Mites may bite people while looking for a new host. Mite bites leave itchy red irritations on the skin but the mites will not live more than a few days.
“They don’t develop. Human blood is not sufficient for them to produce eggs and eventually an infestation will die out if there’s no bird host present.”
Vail says a bird mite infestation is unlikely in a home.
“If you visited a structure and there are bird mites in it and you brought one or two home, they’re eventually going to die. There’s no reason to go and fumigate your house. They are not going to be reproducing unless there are birds present and they would have to find that bird.”
Vail says these mites don’t typically carry diseases harmful to humans and people should not overreact.