Psittacosis – parrot fever

Psittacosis (sometimes called ornithosis or parrot disease or parrot fever) is an infection of the lung (pneumonia) caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila (Chlamydia). The bacterium is carried by both wild and domestic birds, which often show no sign of disease.

People who have close contact with birds, such as parrot breeders pet shop employees, pet owners, poultry farm workers, abattoir workers, veterinarians (vets) and individuals who live near high density native bird populations are at increased risk.

Infection is caused by inhaling the dust from dried bird faeces or dry eye and nasal secretions from infected birds.

Symptoms of Psittacosis may be often associated with the flu (flu-like) and include:

  • fever and chills
  • nausea and vomiting
  • muscle and joint pain
  • diarrhoea
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • cough, typically dry
  • abrupt onset of headache

Thankfully, the disease is uncommon in commercial poultry flocks. There have been reported cases in cattle, sheep, horses, cats and dogs. If the infection is contracted, treatment involves specific and effective antibiotic therapy.

Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel

Fast facts:

  • Psittacosis is a lung infection caused by a bacteria carried by birds.
  • Although all birds may carry this disease, it’s most common in budgies, parrots, parakeets and cockatiels. It is also found in poultry.
  • People become infected with psittacosis by inhaling secretions from infected birds. Psittacosis can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Wear masks and gloves while cleaning bird cages and poultry sheds to reduce the risk of infection.

References used for this topic

More information:

Centres for Disease Control (US)

Department of Health (Aust)
Psittacosis (ornithosis) case definition

Victorian Health Department
Psittacosis – the facts

Clinical care:

Australian Government Department of Health
Psittacosis (ornithosis): CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units

NSW Health

Victorian Health Department
Psittacosis (ornithosis)