Psittacosis is an infection. It is passed to humans from birds. It may cause flu-like symptoms.
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Psittacosis is caused by a specific bacteria. The bacteria is usually passed to people from a sick bird. It may be inhaled through the dust of dried bird droppings from the sick bird. It can also pass when a person touches his or her mouth to the beak of an infected bird.
The bacteria can pass from one person to another. This is rare.
Contact with a pet bird increases the risk of psittacosis. A sick bird may have feather loss and runny eyes. There may also be a change in eating habits and diarrhea. Birds that pass infection may also appear well.
Certain occupations increase the risk of this infection including:
- Zoo worker
- Laboratory worker
- Poultry plant worker
Birds most often associated with psittacosis infection in people include:
- Turkeys and other poultry
Psittacosis may cause:
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Chest pain
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. The doctor may ask if you have been around animals like birds. A physical exam will be done.
A blood test can confirm the diagnosis. Other body fluids, such as sputum, may be tested. A chest x-ray may be done to check your lungs.
Psittacosis is treated with antibiotics.
Sometimes severe breathing problems may occur. This is rare but may require a stay in the hospital. Oxygen will make breathing easier. IV antibiotics will also be given. It will speed delivery of medicine.
To help reduce your chances of 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. Use bleach or rubbing alcohol.
- Avoid birds that appear to be sick.
- If your bird appears to be sick, take it to a vet right away.
- Take precaution if you care for a sick bird. Wear a mask and protective clothing. This includes gloves and eye wear.
AVMA—American Veterinary Medicine Association https://www.avma.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association https://www.canadianveterinarians.net
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
Animal contact compendium 2017. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians website. Available at: http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/AnimalContactCompendium2017.pdf. Accessed December 11, 2017.
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 December 11, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis.html. Updated June 29, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Stewardson AJ, Grayson ML. Psittacosis. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2010;24(1):7-25.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 11/2018
- Update Date: 08/22/2018