Parrot fever is a rare infectious disease that causes pneumonia in humans. Itis transmitted from pet birds or poultry. The illness is caused by chlamydia, a parasitic type of microorganism closely related to bacteria. Parrot feveris also called chlamydiosis, psittacosis or ornithosis.
Parrot fever, which is referred to as avian psittacosis when it infects birds, is caused by a type of Chlamydia known as Chlamydia psittaci. Pet birds in the parrot family, including parakeets, macaws, and cockatiels, are the most common carriers of the infection. Other birds that may also spread C. psittaci include pigeons, doves, mynah birds, and turkeys. Birds carrying the organism may appear healthy but can expel the parasite in their feces.
The symptoms of avian psittacosis include inactivity, loss of appetite, and ruffled feathers, diarrhea, runny eyes, and nasal discharge, and green or yellow-green urine. Sick birds can be treated with antibiotics by a veterinarian.
C. psittaci is usually spread from birds to humans through exposure toinfected bird feces during cage cleaning or by handling infected birds. In humans, parrot fever can range in severity from minor flu-like symptoms to severe and life-threatening pneumonia.
Although a rare occurrence, humans can also spread the disease by person-to-person contact. If infected, symptoms usually develop within 5-14 days of exposure and include fever, headache, chills, loss of appetite, cough, and fatigue. In severe cases, the patient develops pneumonia. People who work in pet shops or who keep pet birds are the most likely to become infected.
Only about 100-200 cases of parrot fever are reported each year in the UnitedStates. It is possible, however, that the illness is more common since it iseasily confused with other types of influenza or pneumonia. Doctors are mostlikely to consider a diagnosis of parrot fever if the patient has a recent history of exposure to birds. The diagnosis can be confirmed by blood tests for antibodies. In addition, a chest x ray may also be used to diagnose the pneumonia caused byC.psittaci.
Psittacosis is treated with oral antibiotics, which are typically prescribedfor at least 10-14 days. Severely ill patients may be given intravenous antibiotics for the first few days of therapy. There is no effective vaccine against parrot fever.
The prognosis for recovery is excellent; with antibiotic treatment, more than99% of patients with parrot fever recover. Severe infections, however, may be fatal to the elderly, the untreated, and persons with weak immune systems.
Birds imported into the United States as pets should be quarantined to ensurethat they are not infected. Health authorities recommend that breeders and importers feed imported birds a special blend of feed mixed with antibiotics for 45 days to ensure that any C. psittaci organisms are destroyed before the birds are sold. In addition, bird cages and food and water bowls should be cleaned daily.