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Psittacosis

(Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)

Definition

Psittacosis is an infection. It is passed to humans from birds. It may cause flu-like symptoms. The infection can range from mild to severe.
Bacteria as Seen Through Microscope
Bacteria
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Causes

Psittacosis is caused by a type of 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.

Risk Factors

Contact with a pet bird increases the risk of psittacosis.
Other things that raise the risk are:
  • Certain types of work, such as:
    • Bird breeder
    • Pet shop employee
    • Veterinarian
    • Lab worker
    • Poultry worker and poultry plant worker
    • Zoo or wildlife worker
  • Contact with certain birds, such as:
    • Parrots, and macaws
    • Parakeets and cockatiels
    • Turkeys and other poultry
    • Pigeons

Symptoms

Psittacosis may cause:
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Fever and chills
  • Problems breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Chest pain
  • Rash

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. 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 the lungs.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to clear the infection. Psittacosis is treated with antibiotics.
Sometimes severe breathing problems may happen. This is rare but may require a stay in the hospital. Oxygen will make breathing easier. IV antibiotics will also be given.

Prevention

To reduce the risk of psittacosis:
  • Wear a mask, gloves, eyewear, and protective clothing when caring for a sick bird.
  • Avoid mouth-to-beak contact with birds.
  • Learn about proper bird care and keeping them healthy.
  • Take sick birds to the vet right away.

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.canadianveterinarians.net
Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References

Animal contact compendium 2017. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians website. Available at: http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/AnimalContactCompendium2017.pdf. Accessed April 2, 2021.
Balsamo G, Maxted AM, et al. Compendium of measures to control chlamydia psittaci infection among humans (psittacosis) and pet birds (avian chlamydiosis), 2017. J Avian Med Surg. 2017;31(3):262-282.
Psittacosis. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website. Available at: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/psittacosis.html. Accessed April 2, 2021.
Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis.html. Accessed April 2, 2021.
Psittacosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/psittacosis. Accessed April 2, 2021.

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