Psittacosis: An Overview

Psittacosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci. People can become infected through contact with infected birds, typically psittacine birds such as parrots, macaws, cockatiels, and budgerigars. Other birds, such as pigeons, turkeys, chickens, and waterfowl, may also carry it. The disease is common in pet birds, and it can also be spread to humans through contact, inhalation, or ingestion of contaminated materials.

Psittacosis symptoms usually appears 1 to 3 weeks after exposure and may include fever, chills, muscle aches, joint pain, loss of appetite, and fatigue. As the illness clears, a dry, persistent cough is often the only symptom that lingers. In rare cases, psittacosis can cause severe, life-threatening complications. Therefore, it is important for individuals who have been in contact with a bird that may carry the disease to seek medical attention promptly.

Risk Factors and Prevention

People who work in the pet industry, bird breeders, avian vets, conservationists and bird handlers are all at risk for psittacosis. People with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk of the disease. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection.

  • Avoid contact with wild birds
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling bird cages, perches, or other objects that have been in contact with infected birds
  • Wear gloves and a face mask when cleaning bird cages or coming in contact with bird droppings
  • Do not allow birds to eat off your plate, glass or eating utensils
  • Visit your avian vet for regular check-ups
  • Keep birds away from children's toys or playground equipment

Diagnosis and Treatment

Psittacosis is diagnosed using a blood test or a chest X-ray. Antibiotics are the primary treatment for psittacosis, and most people recover from the infection within a few weeks. However, if not treated promptly, psittacosis can lead to serious and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and hepatitis.

Psittacosis is a relatively rare disease and can be easily prevented with good hygiene practices. Treatment for psittacosis is straightforward and effective, so it is important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have been exposed to the disease.