• Psittacosis

    (Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)


    Psittacosis is an infection caused by a bacterium called Chlamydophila psittaci .
    Bacteria as Seen Through Microscope
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Humans get psittacosis from certain birds, including:
    • Parrots
    • Macaws
    • Cockatiels
    • Parakeets
    • Turkeys
    • Pigeons
    Some infected birds have symptoms, such as losing feathers, runny eyes, change in eating habits, and diarrhea. Other birds appear well, but can still spread the infection to humans. People usually become infected from breathing in dust from the dried droppings or bodily fluids of birds that are sick. The infection can also spread when a person touches his or her mouth to the beak of an infected bird. Even brief exposure to sick birds can lead to psittacosis. The infection rarely spreads from one person to another.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your risk for getting psittacosis include:
    • Handling a pet bird
    • Occupations with exposure to birds, including:
      • Veterinarian
      • Zoo worker
      • Laboratory worker
      • Farmer
      • Poultry plant worker


    Symptoms of psittacosis begin 1–4 weeks after exposure to a sick bird. Symptoms can involve nearly any part of the body. Symptoms may include:
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Pneumonia with severe breathing problems
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • Muscle aches
    • Chest pain
    • Rash


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    • Your doctor may need to test your bodily fluids. This can be done with blood tests.
    • Your doctor may need pictures of your bodily structures. This can be done with chest x-rays .


    The main treatment for psittacosis is antibiotics. You should take them for 10-14 days after the fever is gone. The antibiotic macrolide is usually prescribed to treat this condition.
    If you have severe breathing problems, you may need to be hospitalized for oxygen and IV antibiotics.


    You can take several steps to prevent psittacosis, including:
    • Avoid birds that appear to be sick.
    • 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.
    • If your bird appears to be sick, take it to a veterinarian right away.


    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

    Healthy U http://www.healthyalberta.com/


    Eidson M. Psittacosis/avian chlamydiosis. J Am Vet Med Assoc . 2002;221(12):1710-2. Available at: https://www.avma.org/News/Journals/Collections/Documents/javma%5F221%5F12%5F1710.pdf . Accessed January 8, 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 January 8, 2013.

    Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/psittacosis%5Ft.htm . Updated January 13, 2009. Accessed January 8, 2013.

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

    Revision Information

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