Psittacosis

Overview

Cause

Chlamydia psittaci

Description

Psittacosis is a bacterial disease mostly associated with birds. It is sometimes referred to as ornithosis, parrot fever or pigeon-keepers' disease. People can be infected and birds are usually the source of infection.

Where the disease occurs

The disease can occur in any area of Queensland.

The disease in animals

Infection is common in birds of the parrot (psittacine) family that includes budgerigars, lovebirds and parakeets. Other birds that may be infected include canaries, poultry and pigeons.

Some infected birds show no clinical signs, while others will show signs of illness such as inflammation of the eyes, respiratory problems and watery droppings.

Birds showing signs of disease should receive antibiotic treatment. Cages or aviaries that are contaminated should be cleaned and disinfected to prevent risk of infection for other birds and people.

How people can get the disease

Humans most commonly catch the disease from infected birds by inhaling the bacteria from feathers, secretions and droppings.

The disease is uncommon in people, with about 15 cases reported each year in Queensland.

Due to their close contact with animals and birds that may carry the disease, veterinarians, bird fanciers and workers in aviaries or zoos are most at risk from psittacosis.

Meat pigeon (squab) farmers are also at risk, especially if they are just beginning to farm pigeons.

Four to 15 days after contact with an infected bird, influenza-like symptoms may develop with fever, headaches and general aches and pains. Most people with psittacosis develop an irritating cough. The illness usually runs for seven to 10 days and, provided early treatment is given, few problems occur.

Treatments for people

Antibiotics are effective and a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible.

Preventing the disease in people
  • Exercise good personal hygiene.
  • Wash hands after handling birds, especially parrots.
  • Take any sick birds to a veterinarian to allow the illness to be investigated and controls put in place.
  • Control dust and wear dust masks when cleaning aviaries or bird enclosures or when working in other areas contaminated with bird faeces and discharges.

Further information

Last updated 21 May 2015