Monday, March 23, 2015

Avian Diseases: Psittacosis

Our staff, interns and volunteers here at the World Bird Sanctuary go to great lengths to make sure all of our birds are happy and healthy.  We are lucky to have veterinarians who assist us in learning about potential diseases and in keeping a close eye on our birds.

Psitticosis is most commonly associated with Parrots, thus the name Parrot Fever (photo: Gay Schroer)
One disease that may be of particular interest to our readers who are bird owners is known as Psittacosis, or “Parrot Fever.”  Contrary to the way it sounds, “Parrot Fever” is not the overwhelming desire to purchase or own many pet birds!  It is a disease that was discovered in 1879 by Robert Koch, and is caused by a bacteria known as Clamydia psittaci.  The name, Psittacosis, is derived from the Greek word for parrot, psittakos.

Although named for the parrot family (and sometimes identified in parrots, especially those that have been imported), many species of birds can contract this disease, including even chickens and pigeons.  Symptoms in birds may include respiratory signs like nasal discharge, sneezing, or wheezing; there may also be gastrointestinal signs like loss of interest in food and discolored droppings.  Birds with Psittacosis may have other signs and symptoms as well, like lethargy (acting sluggish) and weight loss, and sometimes birds may have very little in the way of symptoms, but still have the disease within them.

Other species that can contract this disease, including pigeons, chickens and even humans (photo: Melissa Moore)

The good news is that Psittacosis can be diagnosed with tests administered by your avian veterinarian, and it is treatable with a course of antibiotics.  I am not aware of any vaccine for Psittacosis at this time, but the disease is considered fairly rare.  It is important to be aware of this disease, since it is considered a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted to humans.  If you have any questions about Psittacosis in humans, please talk with your family doctor.

Like most other avian diseases, “Parrot Fever” is generally not something most of us at World Bird Sanctuary or most of our readers may ever encounter.  However, it is good to be informed, especially about those animals that are near and dear to our hearts, and often live with us in our homes.

Here are some online references to check out about Psittacosis:

Submitted by Melissa Moore, World Bird Sanctuary Chief of Operations in Education

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