• Psittacosis

    (Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)


    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
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    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

    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


    Psittacosis may cause:
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Shortness of breath
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Muscle aches
    • Chest pain
    • Rash


    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 body structures. This can be done with a chest x-ray .


    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:
    • 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.


    American Veterinary Medicine Association http://www.avma.org

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca


    Compendium of measures to control Chlamydia psittaci infection among humans (psittacosis) and pet birds (avian chlamydiosis), 2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/Psittacosis.pdf. Accessed November 16, 2015.

    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 November 16, 2015. Accessed November 16, 2015.

    Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis.html. Updated February 7, 2014. Accessed November 16, 2015.

    Stewardson AJ, Grayson ML. Psittacosis. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2010;24(1):7-25.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.