(Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)
Psittacosis is an infection. It is passed to humans from birds. It may cause flu-like symptoms.
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Psittacosis is caused by a specific bacteria. The bacteria is usually passed to people from a sick bird. It may be inhaled through the dust of dried bird droppings from the sick bird. It can also pass when a person touches his or her mouth to the beak of an infected bird.
The bacteria can pass from one person to another. This is rare.
Contact with a pet bird increases the risk of psittacosis. A sick bird may have feather loss and runny eyes. There may also be a change in eating habits and diarrhea. Birds that pass infection may also appear well.
Certain occupations increase the risk of this infection including:
- Zoo worker
- Laboratory worker
- Poultry plant worker
Birds most often associated with psittacosis infection in people include:
- Turkeys and other poultry
Psittacosis may cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Chest pain
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. The doctor may ask if you have been around animals like birds. A physical exam will be done.
A blood test can confirm the diagnosis. Other body fluids, such as sputum, may be tested. A chest x-ray may be done to check your lungs.
Psittacosis is treated with antibiotics.
Sometimes severe breathing problems may occur. This is rare but may require a stay in the hospital. Oxygen will make breathing easier. IV antibiotics will also be given. It will speed delivery of medicine.
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. Use bleach or rubbing alcohol.
- Avoid birds that appear to be sick.
- If your bird appears to be sick, take it to a vet right away.
- Take precaution if you care for a sick bird. Wear a mask and protective clothing. This includes gloves and eye wear.
AVMA—American Veterinary Medicine Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Animal contact compendium 2017. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians website. Available at: http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/AnimalContactCompendium2017.pdf. 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: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/psittacosis.html. 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 November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP Last Updated: 8/22/2018