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Psittacosis

(Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)

Pronounced: sit-uh-COH-sis

Definition

Psittacosis is an infection that is passed to humans from birds. It may cause a variety of flu-like symptoms.

Bacteria as Seen Through Microscope

Bacteria
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

Psittacosis is caused by a specific bacteria. The bacteria is passed from a sick bird. People may come in contact with the bacteria when they inhale the dust of dried bird droppings from the sick bird. The bacteria can also pass when a person touches his or her mouth to the beak of an infected bird. Even minor contact with sick birds can lead to psittacosis. The bacteria can pass from one person to another, but it is rare.

Risk Factors    TOP

Handling a pet bird increases the risk of psittacosis. Some infected birds have symptoms, such as losing feathers, runny eyes, a change in eating habits, and diarrhea. Other birds may appear well, but can still spread the infection to humans.

Certain occupations also increase the risk of this infection including:

  • Veterinarian
  • Zoo worker
  • Laboratory worker
  • Farmer
  • Poultry plant worker

Birds most often associated with psittacosis infection in people include:

  • Parrots
  • Macaws
  • Cockatiels
  • Parakeets
  • Turkeys and other poultry
  • Pigeons

Symptoms    TOP

Psittacosis may cause:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Chest pain
  • Rash

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your body fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with a chest x-ray.

Treatment    TOP

Psittacosis is treated with antibiotics.

Some infections can cause severe breathing problems that will require hospitalization. Oxygen will be given to help your breathing. IV antibiotics will also be given to help speed medication throughout the body.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce your chances of psittacosis:

  • Keep your mouth away from a bird’s beak.
  • Buy pet birds from a dealer with an exotic bird permit.
  • If you have two or more birds, keep their cages apart.
  • Keep new birds away from other birds for 4-6 weeks.
  • Clean bird cages, food bowls, and water bowls every day. Disinfect them every week with bleach or rubbing alcohol.
  • Avoid birds that appear to be sick.
  • If your bird appears to be sick, take it to a veterinarian right away.
  • If you care for an infected bird, wear a mask and protective clothing, including gloves, eye wear, and a disposable surgical cap. You should also wear a properly fitted respirator with an N95 or higher rating.

RESOURCES:

AVMA—American Veterinary Medicine Association
https://www.avma.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
https://www.lung.ca

References:

Animal contact compendium 2017. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed December 11, 2017.
Eidson M. Psittacosis/avian chlamydiosis. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002;221(12):1710-1712.
Psittacosis. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 11, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis.html. Updated June 29, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Stewardson AJ, Grayson ML. Psittacosis. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2010;24(1):7-25.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

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