Psittacosis, everything you should know

Psittacosis, everything you should know

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Psittacosis in humans and birds. Animals at risk and symptoms to note.

Unlike toxoplasmosis or leptospirosis, psittacosis is a poorly understood zoonosis. Zoonoses are those diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. The lack of knowledge of psittacosis is almost unjustified considering thatparrots, canaries and pigeons(vectors of the disease) are widespread!

Zoonoses in birds: ornithosis or chlamydia

Just like cats and dogs, pet birds can be toocarriers of diseases that can transmit to humans. Among the most common zoonoses of birds we point out psittacosis, also known as ornithosis or chlamydiosis, salmonella can also be transmitted by domestic birds.

If you have birds in your home or garden, you do well to find out about the diseases they can transmit to humans. Psittacosis is a disease caused by the pathogen of Chlamydia. This pathogen lives undisturbed in the organism of many birds, in particular:

  • Parrot
  • Canaries
  • Budgie
  • Pigeons
  • Comlombacci
  • Hens
  • Poultry…

Symptoms. The pathogen of chlamydia (Chlamydia psittaci) in birds does not give birth tosymptomsparticular ... however, if this pathogen is transmitted to humans, it gives rise to the disease known aspsittacosis(or ornithosis) triggering a symptomatic picture that does not go unnoticed.

If you've noticed anysymptomsin the sick parrot, it will not be psittacosis as the pathogen Chlamydia psittaci is harmless to parrots, canaries, parakeets and other companion birds. Even children are immune vectors to the pathogenicity of chlamydia.

Psittacosis: how it is transmitted

Transmission takes place forfecal contamination. As explained in the article dedicated to zoonoses, although contamination and fecal-oral transmission may seem like a remote possibility, unfortunately it is not at all.

Bird droppings can spread the disease in the environment and humans can contract psittacosis both by ingestion of contaminated material and by inhalation of fecal material.

An example? If infected pigeons deposit manure on the crop and the vegetable in question is not washed thoroughly, humans end up ingesting the pathogen and becoming infected.

Other striking examples can be related not only to poor hygiene but also to superficiality. For example, after handling the aviary of an infected bird, humans can eat without washing their hands first and increase the risk of contractingpsittacosis.

Please note: there are several chlamydial infections. To avoid confusion, I remind you that thechlamydia, in humans, is a fairly common sexually transmitted infection, however, caused by an obligate intracellular bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. The pathogen responsible for psittacosis still triggers a chlamydial infection but it is Chlamydua psittaci.


In man, the main onespsittacosis symptomsthey are represented by fever, chills, flu symptoms such as joint pain, muscle aches and headache. There is no lack of symptoms affecting the respiratory system (symptoms such as breathing difficulties, cough, apnea ...).

In severe cases, hemorrhagic bronchopneumonia, continuous hyperthermia (very high fever) and vomiting are among the symptoms.


That ofpigeonsand comlombacci can be a very serious problem in some places in Italy. In these circumstances it would be appropriate to request the intervention of the ASLs who will alert the operating bodies in place.

At home, if you have birds that you think are infected, you can have them treated after consulting your vet. Fortunately, there is a treatment specifically to "secure man" by preventing your parrot from transmitting diseases.

The first step to take, in reality, would be to always buy exotic animals or related parrots from CITES, that is, a document that can certify their origin and guarantee that that animal will not transmit any disease to you.

Knowing the origin of your parrot or of the exotic birds you intend to buy is of fundamental importance, you just need to know that they have been described in the medical literatureoutbreaks of psittacosisprecisely linked to the massive imports of exotic birds.

Among other good practices, if you have birds in your home or other animals that can transmit psittacosis, we remind you to:

  • Frequently clean the aviary by eliminating bird droppings, doing this with gloves
  • Clean and disinfect aviaries and shelters with specific products
  • Take care of personal hygiene
  • Avoid consuming food with dirty hands

In man, for thediagnosis of ornithosis(or psittacosis) laboratory and instrumental tests are required. A chest X-ray is useful to show any signs of disease-related complications (such as pneumonia in case of marked respiratory symptoms). Pneumonia, however, is described as atypical.

Antibiotic as a cure

L'platypus needs treatmentTypically the doctor prescribes sulfonamide-type antibiotics which represent a good onecareand are able to guarantee a rapid course.

The antibiotic should be prescribed by a doctor following investigations. It is important not to underestimate the symptoms and above all to report to the doctor the risk of exposure to the pathogenic bacterium. If left untreated, the disease can lead to death in 20% of cases.

Video: Pet Birds, IAQ u0026 Your Health (May 2022).


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