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
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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 birds. 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.
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:
Birds most often associated with psittacosis infection in people, include:
Psittacosis may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. To look for signs of infection, your doctor may order:
Psittacosis is treated with antibiotics.
Some infection 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.
To help reduce your chance of getting psittacosis:
American Veterinary Medicine Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Public Health Agency of Canada
Compendium of measures to control Chlamydia psittaci infection among humans (psittacosis) and pet birds (avian chlamydiosis), 2000. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2000;49(RR-8):3-17.
Eidson M. Psittacosis/avian chlamydiosis. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002;221(12):1710-1712.
Orinthosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated November 30, 2009. Accessed September 20, 2013.
Psittacosis. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website. Available at: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/psittacosis.html . Updated February 2, 2009. Accessed September 20, 2013.
Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/psittacosis_t.htm . Updated January 13, 2009. Accessed September 20, 2013.
Stewardson AJ, Grayson ML. Psittacosis. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2010;24(1):7-25.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013