FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                Connecticut Department of Public Health

December 28, 2007                                      Contact:  William Gerrish

                                                                     (860) 509-7270


                                                                     Connecticut Department of Agriculture

                                                                     Contact:  Linda Piotrowicz

                                                                     (860) 713-2503



Hartford - The State Departments of Agriculture and Public Health were notified that cockatiels in several Connecticut pet stores might have been exposed to avian chlamydiosis, a bacterial infection that can cause respiratory illness in people known as psittacosis.  The stores are part of a large national chain and receive birds from the same wholesale vendor.  No sick birds are known to have been sold and no human cases have been associated with these Connecticut pet stores.


“Although we do not have reason to believe that sick birds were sold from any of the suspect pet stores, I would like bird pet owners to know a few things about this disease,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner J. Robert Galvin, MD, MPH, MBA.  “The Departments of Agriculture and Public health are working with the pet store company to assure that exposed birds are appropriately treated to eliminate possible infections.”  Added Commissioner Galvin, “This disease should not be confused with avian influenza, a viral disease spread by wild birds.”


The pet store chain has voluntarily removed all birds supplied by the implicated wholesale vendor off sale and started all the birds on antibiotic preventive treatment.  Employees of each store were notified and instructed in proper cleanup and handling of the birds.  Customers who bought birds from these stores since October will receive letters with information on avian chlamydiosis and psittacosis. 


Avian chlamydiosis is a disease of birds caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci.  This bacterium is frequently found in birds but it does not always cause the bird to become sick.  Sick birds often are lethargic, do not eat, lose weight, have thick discharges from eyes or nose and diarrhea.  Birds most frequently infected are psittacine species such as cockatiels, cockatoos, parrots, and parakeets. 


It can be passed from birds to people when dust from dried bird droppings or respiratory secretions are inhaled.  It is rarely spread from person to person.  People who are infected with C. psittaci and develop psittacosis typically have a fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a cough.  These symptoms usually develop 5 to 14 days after exposure.  While the disease is often mild, it can be serious if not recognized and treated.  Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat infection.


To prevent the spread of psittacosis birdcages should be cleaned often to avoid accumulation of dried fecal material.  A non-dusty litter such as newspaper should be placed under the wire mesh and changed daily.  Water and food bowls should be emptied and rinsed daily.  When bars or perches need to be clean they should be washed with soap and rinsed thoroughly.  To avoid circulation of dust and feathers, the floor or countertops near cages should be cleaned by wet mopping. 


Additional information on avian chlamydiosis and psittacosis is available on the Department of Public Health website at and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at