• Psittacosis

    (Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)

    Definition

    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
    Bacteria
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Causes

    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

    Symptoms

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

    Diagnosis

    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 .

    Treatment

    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.

    Prevention

    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.

    RESOURCES

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

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

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

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

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

    References

    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

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