UConn Health Logo Health

Psittacosis

What Is Psittacosis?

Psittacosis is an infectious disease in humans that has a mild, non-specific flu-like symptoms. It refers to any infection or disease caused by the organisms Chlamydia psittaci, one of several microorganisms in the genus Chlamydia. Parrot disease, ornithosis, and chlamydiosis are other names for psittacosis. Birds typically have a latent infection and can shed the organism either intermittently or continuously for weeks or months.

Routes of Infection

Humans become infected by breathing in the organism when the urine, respiratory secretion, or dried feces of infected birds become aerosolized (i.e., dispersed in the air as very fine droplets or dust particles). Other sources of exposure include mouth-to-beak contact, a bite from an infected bird, and handling the plumage and tissues of infected birds. Person-to-person transmission of the disease is rare. People who have the disease will generally present within 4 to 15 days after exposure with fever, chills, cough, weakness or fatigue, muscle and chest pain, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, sweating, and an abnormal intolerance to light. Psittacosis is primarily a lung disease, but it can involve several organs and, rarely, can be fatal.

Risks

Psittacosis is an occupational health hazard for people whose work brings them into contact with birds.

Prevention

Preventive measures include feeding birds properly, avoiding overcrowding, adequate ventilation systems, and clean caging.