(Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)
Psittacosis is an infection that is passed to humans from birds.
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Psittacosis is caused by a type of bacteria that infects birds. It is passed to people by inhaling the dust of dried bird droppings from an infected bird. It can also pass through bites and beak to mouth contact with an infected bird.
The bacteria can pass from one person to another. This is rare.
The risk of this problem is higher in people who have contact with birds, especially:
- Parrots and macaws
- Parakeets and cockatiels
- Turkeys and other poultry
It is also more common in people who have these jobs:
- Bird breeder
- Pet shop employee
- Lab worker
- Poultry worker and poultry plant worker
- Zoo or wildlife worker
Psittacosis may cause:
- Fever and chills
- Problems breathing
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Chest pain
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. You may be asked about any contact with birds. A physical exam will be done.
A blood test will be done to look for signs of infection. Other body fluids, such as sputum, may be tested.
Pictures may be taken of the lungs. This can be done with a chest x-ray.
Psittacosis is treated with antibiotics.
Rarely, severe breathing problems may happen. Emergency care may be needed, such as oxygen therapy.
To lower 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.
- Animal contact compendium 2017. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians website. Available at: http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/AnimalContactCompendium2017.pdf.
- 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.
- Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis/index.html.
- Psittacosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/psittacosis.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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