What is psittacosis?
Psittacosis is a disease caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia psittaci. It is also known as parrot fever or ornithosis.
Where are the bacteria found?
The bacteria are usually found in parakeets, parrots, and love birds; however, it can also be found in turkeys and pigeons.
How are the bacteria spread?
The bacteria are spread by inhaling dust with dried droppings or respiratory secretions from bird cages and by handling infected birds. Person-to-person spread has not been reported.
Who gets psittacosis?
People who have contact with caged pet birds are most frequently diagnosed with psittacosis. Other people who may get psittacosis include pigeon fanciers, slaughterhouse workers who process turkeys, and people who provide veterinary care to birds.
What are the symptoms of psittacosis?
The symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and a dry cough. Untreated people can develop severe illness such as pneumonia. The bacterium most commonly causes pneumonia but can also cause infections in other organs of the body.
How soon after infection do symptoms appear?
The symptoms can appear from 4 - 15 days after exposure, but usually within 10 days.
Does past infection with psittacosis make a person immune?
Infection does not provide permanent protection from this disease.
What is the treatment for psittacosis?
Antibiotics such as tetracycline are often prescribed. With treatment, less than 1% of patients die from this disease.
What can be done to prevent the spread of psittacosis?
If birds are kept as pets, clean the cage often so the fecal material does not accumulate, dry up, and become airborne. Cages should be washed and disinfected. The floor around the cage should be cleaned with a wet mop to avoid dust. Current laws require that imported birds of the parrot family be kept in a bird quarantine station prior to sale. During the 30-day quarantine, they are given feed containing tetracycline to reduce the risk of infection. Illegally imported birds are more likely to transmit the disease. Ill birds suspected of being infected with C. psittaci should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.