Chlamydia psittaci is an intracellular bacterium and can cause an infection called Psittacosis (parrot fever) or Ornithosis. This disease is known to occur worldwide and is most often known to affect people with occupational exposure to birds. Psittacosis (parrot fever) or Ornithosis appears to affect women more often than men and people between the ages of 20 and 50.
Chlamydia psittaci bacteria are found in and around parrots, parakeets, canaries, turkeys, pigeons, and ducks. People that work with birds in the zoo, pet shop, or poultry farms are at an increased risk of acquiring ornithosis or parrot fever. Psittacine birds, pigeons and turkeys are said to harbor the bacteria in their spleen, blood, liver, feathers, nasal secretions, feces, and tissues. Dust filled with feces from farms, zoos or other populated bird areas can be infected with the Chlamydia psittaci bacteria. Employees that become ill with omithosis or Psittacosis often have inhaled the dust from the bird populated areas infected with Chlamydia psittaci.
In 1930 an outbreak of omithosis occurred and infected 750 to 800 people. 174 cases were reported from the Faroe Islands from 1930 to 1938 with a human death rate at 20% and in pregnant women as high as 80%. After much experimentation it was discovered that young seabirds called Fulmars carried Chlamydia psittaci and people were becoming infected with “psittacosis virus” after catching and eating young fulmars. Therefore hunting fulmars (sea birds) for human consumption was prohibited until 1954.
Symptoms of psittacosis or omithosis are much like flu symptoms at first including headache, fever, coughing which may or may not be productive, sore throat, and muscle pain,. After several days fever increases, but with treatment can decline. These symptoms can continue for a few weeks and get worse and may include nausea, vomiting, abnormal distention and tenderness, and decreased pulse rate.
Diagnosis is made after testing blood samples or sputum from patient and reviewing history of prolonged exposure to birds. Treatment may include IV tetracycline if severe infection occurs. Otherwise routine antibiotic treatment with tetracycline or another effective antibiotic is prescribed. Symptoms usually become less severe after 48 to 72 hours after antibiotic treatment begins.
Enclosed areas where birds are raised need to be cleaned and sanitized this should include surfaces as well as the air to significantly reduce airborne pathogens such as Chlamydia psittaci. 8/11