Psittacosis is an infection that is passed to humans from birds. It may cause a variety of flu-like symptoms.
Psittacosis is caused by a specific bacteria. The bacteria is passed from a sick bird. People may come in contact with the bacteria when they inhale the dust of dried bird droppings from the sick bird. The bacteria can also pass when a person touches his or her mouth to the beak of an infected bird. Even minor contact with sick birds can lead to psittacosis. The bacteria can pass from one person to another, but it is rare.
Handling a pet bird increases the risk of psittacosis. Some infected birds have symptoms, such as losing feathers, runny eyes, a change in eating habits, and diarrhea. Other birds may appear well, but can still spread the infection to humans.
Certain occupations also increase the risk of this infection including:
Birds most often associated with psittacosis infection in people include:
Psittacosis may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your body fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with a chest x-ray.
Psittacosis is treated with antibiotics.
Some infections can cause severe breathing problems that will require hospitalization. Oxygen will be given to help your breathing. IV antibiotics will also be given to help speed medication throughout the body.
To help reduce your chances of psittacosis:
AVMA—American Veterinary Medicine Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Animal contact compendium 2017. National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians website. Available at: http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/AnimalContactCompendium2017.pdf. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Eidson M. Psittacosis/avian chlamydiosis. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2002;221(12):1710-1712.
Psittacosis. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website. Available at: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/psittacosis.html. Updated December 11, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Psittacosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/psittacosis.html. Updated June 29, 2017. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Stewardson AJ, Grayson ML. Psittacosis. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2010;24(1):7-25.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.