What is Psittacosis, Causes and Symptoms of Psittacosis


  • Posted on- May 18, 2018
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Psittacosis is an infectious disease that contains flu-like symptoms further affecting humans it is caused by a microorganism called Chlamydophila psittaci.

Psittacosis is commonly contracted from parrots, pigeons and poultry birds (the bacteria causes avian chlamydiosis in these birds), but other birds can also transmit the disease.

This condition mainly attacks the lungs and damages them, leading to the symptoms of dry cough, fever, chills, fatigue, and shortness of breath. The infection may also progress and affect other organs like the brain, heart, and liver.

What are the risk factors associated with Psittacosis?

The risk factors of Psittacosis include:

  • Birds owners, commonly parrot or pigeon owners
  • Pet shop employees
  • Veterinarians, lab workers
  • Those who work in poultry farms, individuals who slaughter and process poultry

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones probability of getting a condition compared to an individual who is not having the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

What are the causes of Psittacosis?

Psittacosis is a bacterial infection that is caused by the pathogenic organism Chlamydia psittaci. This bacterium generally goes into the body through inhalation of the infected bird’s respiratory droplets and dried feces powder (droppings).

A transmission of the infection can also occur through bird bites (pecks), beak-to-mouth contact, and while handling the birds (from bird plumage). The infected birds often do not present any signs and symptoms.

Occasionally, the infected birds spread the disease to mammals (cattle, sheep, and goats), resulting in the spread of Psittacosis to humans through direct contact, on exposure to the mammals. Human to human transmission is also possible, though it is rarely seen.

How is Psittacosis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Psittacosis may include:

  • Complete evaluation of medical history along with a thorough physical exam. During physical exam, the physician will listen to abnormal lung sounds
  • Complete blood count (CBC): The white blood cell levels may be normal to mildly decreased
  • Serologic test to observe antibody titre against the organism
  • X-ray of the chest: It may reveal the presence of pneumonia
  • CT scan of the chest
  • Blood culture: A culture of the organism is usually avoided, because it can be hazardous to the laboratory workers

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your doctor may recommend some additional tests to extract other clinical conditions to get at a definitive diagnosis.


What are the signs & symptoms of Psittacosis?

Normally, the signs and symptoms of Psittacosis appear within the first 2 weeks on exposure to the organism (incubation period of 5-19 days). It includes the following:

  • Dry cough, sore throat
  • Shortness of breath, fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Fever and chills
  • Headache, joint aches, and muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pneumonia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Photophobia (increased sensitivity to light)


How is Psittacosis treated?

Psittacosis treatment is undertaken using antibiotics. Doxycycline is the most commonly used antibiotic, while other antibiotics that may be administered include:

  • Macrolides
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Intravenous administration of antibiotics in severe cases


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