Psittacosis (Parrot Fever) (Ornithosis)

Psittacosis is an infection caused by the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci that ranges from a mild flu – like illness to pneumonia. Rarely one sees infection involving the central nervous system, heart or liver.

The infection is commonly associated with exposure to birds, even healthy birds. The highest risk of infection is associated with parrots and parakeets.

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by inhaling the bacteria from dried bird droppings, secretions and dust from feathers, etc. Parakeets, parrots, turkeys, ducks, geese, pigeons and canaries are commonly involved in this infection.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is not though to be contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low, however those engaged in activities involving pet shops, aviaries, poultry farms or animal or bird processing facilities are at greatest risk.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Symptoms develop 1-2 weeks after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms start as fever, sore throat, body aches, headache and chills. Subsequently, a cough productive of clear or tan colored sputum and chest pain develops. Occasionally a red flat rash is seen.

Rarely one can see involvement of the central nervous system with one-sided weakness of facial muscles and/or extremities, confusion and seizures.

Liver involvement is manifested with jaundice, nausea and vomiting.

Infection of the heart can manifest with an enlarged heart with symptoms of shortness of breath, leg swelling and chest pains. Infection of the heart valves can cause fevers, heart murmurs etc.

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like tetracycline, erythromycin and quinolones (ciprofloxacin/levofloxacin) etc are effective.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose illness?

Antibody tests are used to diagnose the infection.

What preventive measures can be taken?

No specific preventive measures are available.

advice for your illness and travel
learn about an exotic disease