(Parrot Fever; Ornithosis)
Pronounced: sit-uh-COH-sisEn Español (Spanish Version)
Psittacosis is an infection caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia psittaci . This infection causes fever, chills, dry coughing, headache, muscle aches, and sometimes pneumonia .
Bacteria as Seen Through Microscope
© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.
Humans get psittacosis from certain birds, including:
Some infected birds have symptoms, such as losing feathers, runny noses, 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 secretions 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.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
Risk factors for psittacosis include:
- Owning a pet bird
Occupations with exposure to birds, including:
- Zoo worker
- Laboratory worker
- Poultry plant worker
The symptoms of psittacosis begin one to four weeks after exposure to a sick bird. Symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Muscle aches
- Pneumonia with severe breathing problems
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests—tests to check for the bacterium that causes psittacosis
- Chest x-ray —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body; can be used to look for pneumonia
The main treatment for psittacosis is antibiotics, which you should continue taking for 10 to 14 days after the fever is gone. If you have severe breathing problems, you may need to be hospitalized for oxygen and intravenous 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 once a week with bleach or rubbing alcohol.
- If your bird appears to be sick, take it to a veterinarian promptly.
American Veterinary Medicine Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Animal Health Care
Dogs, cats, and other pets: protect your family from infection. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=HQ01391 . Accessed August 21, 2005.
Psittacosis. American Veterinary Medicine Association website. Available at: http://www.avma.org/pubhlth/psittacosis.asp . Accessed August 21, 2005.
Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/psittacosis_t.htm . Accessed August 21, 2005.
Psittacosis. Maryland Department of Health and Human Hygiene website. Available at: http://edcp.org/factsheets/psittfact.html . Accessed August 21, 2005.
Last reviewed January 2008 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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