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Avian Psitticosis (Parrot Fever)

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Title of Article: Psittacosis (Chlamydiosis, Ornithosis)
Author: Danielle Kuhn
Date Written: February 14, 2009

Chlamydiosis is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacteria chlamydia. This is a reportable disease that can be found in some imported, aviary and pet store birds. Wild and domestic as well as poultry are suseptible to chlamydiosis. Birds that can carry and or contract the disese include parrots, canaries, chickens, ducks, turkeys and pigeons.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms are often stress induced. Being hidden until a stressful event such as travel, weaning or other illness weaken the birds immune system.

Symptoms present very similiar to respiratory infection. These include:

severe and or sudden weight loss
breathing difficulties
lime green *****
conjunctivitis (this is a dead give away of the disease)

Infected birds shed the bacteria in the fecal droppings and nasal discharge. The bacteria remains contagious for quite sometime. It is contracted by either inhaling the dust of droppings or ingestion of droppings.

Clamydiosis can be transmitted to humans in the same manner. This is why proper aviary management and bio security measures are crucial.

Symptoms presented by humans is as follows:

sudden and/or severe fever
weakness and/or fatigue
muscle pain
appetite loss
abnormal intolerance to light

Though the disease can result in death, fatal cases are extremely rare. Generally symtoms present like a mild case of the flu.

The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) reports that between 2000-2006 only 125 cases of Psittacosis were reported. In Canada it is reported to be below 1 in 100 000 cases.
My findings are that yes it is possible for human beings to become infected with Psittacosis, however due to tighter government restrictions, reporting protocol and proper aviary management procedures it is highly unlikely.

Proper Aviary Management and BioSecurity Procedures

In order to prevent the occurance of avian Psitticosis in your home aviary (Under 15 birds) hygiene is of utmost importance. Cage bottoms should be cleaned daily. Paper changed and trays washed in hot water with an effective anti-bacterial soap. Bleach, boiling water, lysol ect... are all effective means to kill the chlamydia bacteria. Cage bottoms, trays and bars should be disinfected weekly, as should toys and perches. Food and water dishes should be steralized and washed daily. Stainless steel dishes are best used in place of plastic. In particular for water or wet soft foods. Newspaper is best used as a cage liner and where birds are paper chewers a grate is used effectively.

An air filtration unit is best used in rooms where birds are kept. Pay careful attention to purchase a HEPA filter or one that filters out dust, as well as bacterias.
Avoid overcrowding in cages. Be sure to feed a healthy well balanced diet. Weigh birds at least once per week as a rapid decrease in normal body weight is often the first sign of illness. Know what symptoms to watch for, observe your birds and their droppings.

Wash your hands before and after handling and or feeding your birds. Use discretion as to whom is in contact with your birds. Avoid visiting areas where other strange birds are frequently present with your birds (ie. pet stores, bird fairs ect...).

When purchasing a new bird buy from an experienced well known or researched breeder that maintains a closed aviary. Make sure to quarantine any new bird for minimum 30-45 days. This is best done in a seperate floor of your home or another building where no birds are present. During quarantine be sure to weigh and observe the new bird for any signs of illness. Get to know them. Again be sure to wash your hands after handling, feeding and cleaning the new bird's area. Change your clothes or better yet have a specific smock (or lab coat) for handling the new bird. Always handle and feed your birds in the order you recieved them (new birds last)!

If An Infection Occurs

If a test shows that one of your birds is infected relax. Antibiotic treatment has proven to be effective against the disease. Be sure to follow your vet's instructions to the letter. Usually your bird(s) will be put on a course of antibiotics for 45 days. Though symtoms will likely clear up soon it is important to follow through the full coarse as relapse is common. Isolate the infected bird(s) from any others and completely disinfect the cages and cage area's with a strong cleanser. This includes toys, perches, food and water dishes ect... When cleaning be sure to wear thick rubber gloves and a facial mask. Follow this practice when handling infected birds as well.
Let your doctor know that you have been in contact with an infected bird and follow his/her reccomendations. Usually this will include blood work and close observation. Pay careful attention for the symptoms listed above. Both your vet and your doctor will need to report the details of infection to either the CDC (US) or Health Canada. This is just as a precaution to help prevent an outbreak and further spread of this disease. Do not let this alarm you. Ask questions if you are unsure of something. If you do not understand what is being explained ask for clarification.

*Sources: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety,CDC, The Merck Veterinary Manual Eighth Edition.*
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