Psittacosis

You just brought your new bird home and a week later it is sick. It sneezes, sits at the bottom of the cage all fluffed up, and has lemon colored droppings. The signs are clear it is time to rush your bird to the veterinarian.

Birds usually hide their illnesses and show signs of disease only when they are seriously ill and cannot pretend to be well. Therefore, every visibly sick bird is a medical emergency. But the clinical signs displayed by your newly purchased bird may be of a much more serious concern. Your bird might be affected by Psittacosis, a disease that can be transmitted to people.

Psittacosis is also known as parrot fever or ornithosis. It is caused by bacteria called Chlamydophila psittaci. In people the disease is characterized by flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, body ache) and may also cause severe pneumonia and other serious health problems. Most human cases have resulted from exposure to infected pet birds (usually cockatiels, parakeets, parrots, and macaws). In birds, the infection is called avian chlamydiosis. Affected birds are usually depressed, thin, anorexic and may have respiratory problems such as sneezing, eye and/or nose redness and discharge as well as bright lime colored droppings due to liver involvement.

Infected birds can transmit the disease to humans via feces and nasal discharges containing the bacteria. It is important to keep high standards of hygiene when caring for birds. Constant cleaning and periodic disinfection of the cage and food containers will reduce survival of bacteria that are shed into the cage environment. Hand washing with anti-bacterial soap should be a regimen any time after handling the birds and the cage.

Psittacosis is more prevalent in facilities that house large populations of birds such as aviaries and pet stores. Pet birds that originate from such places are more likely to be infected and we highly recommend that they undergo laboratory testing following purchase. A thorough physical exam should be done on any newly acquired bird. New birds introduced into houses with existing healthy birds should be quarantined to avoid spreading of Psittacosis within the household avian population.

In cases of suspected Psittacosis in birds or in their owners, both the veterinarian and the physician will run diagnostic laboratory tests for the disease. A positive diagnosis of Psittacosis is followed by reporting the findings to the public health authorities which then initiate a series of steps aimed to eliminate the source of the problem.

Remember that following simple precautionary steps can help not only you and your birds but also others with whom you come in contact

More informtion from the CDC http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/psittacosis_t.htm

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Veterinarians, Animal hospital