What Is Psittacosis?

If you are wonwhat is Psittacosisdering what is Psittacosis and how can it affect your pet cockatiel, or any other pet bird you have, then read on.

Psittacosis is also known as The Parrot Fever. Unfortunately the Psittacosis which is found in birds can be transmitted to other animals and humans.

Psittacosis is a very serious disease and does require urgent medical attention, whether it be in your animals or in yourself.

Psittacosis was first reported in Europe in 1879.

The term psittacosis is derived from the Greek word for parrot, psittakos, and was first used by Morange in 1892.

In 1929, there was a highly publicized outbreak of Psittacosis in the United States. Although it wasn’t the first report of Psittacosis in the United States, it was the largest up to that time. It led to greater controls on the importing of pet parrots.

The aftermath of the Psittacosis outbreak and how it was handled led to the establishment of the National Institutes of Health.

Psittacosis is not an overly common disease as from 2002 to 2009 only 66 human cases of Psittacosis were reported, and most resulted from exposure to infected pet birds.

Bird owners, pet shop employees, people working in poultry factories, vets and people that work in zoos are at the highest risk of getting the infection.

What Is Psittacosis?

So exactly what is Psittacosis?

It is a disease that is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydophila Psittaci. Psittacosis can be infectious to humans, birds, cows, cats, sheep, goats and pigs. It can also infect all different kinds of birds.

It is the only significant disease that can transmit from our companion or aviary birds to us as owners.

Psittacosis is contracted from infected parrots like cockatiels, budgerigars, macaws, sparrows, pigeons, ducks, gulls and hens, among other species.

Infections tend to be lower in canaries and finches than they are in psittacine (parrot family) birds.

Most of the time, birds get it from one another by inhaling dust from the droppings or from the feathers of the birds that have been infected. When a lot of birds have been together, like in a pet shop or aviary, it could happen more often.

Psittacosis Symptoms In Birds

Even though the symptoms aren’t an indicator that your bird definitely has Psittacosis, but there are several Psittacosissymptoms that you need to look out for in your bird.

These include the following:

  • The bird is not eating or drinking
  • The bird looks depressed
  • The bird is listless
  • The droppings are watery and green
  • Unusual discharges from anywhere else
  • The bird dies suddenlywhat is psittacosis

Even if a bird doesn’t show any symptoms of Psittacosis, it can still be a carrier and can pass it to its offspring or other birds, animals, and humans that it comes into contact with.

Psittacosis Symptoms In Humans

In humans, after an incubation period of 5–19 days, the symptoms of the disease range from inapparent illness to systemic illness with severe pneumonia.

Psittacosis will present mainly as atypical pneumonia.

In the first week of Psittacosis, the symptoms mimic those of typhoid fever. Humans will have a high fever, joint pain, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, nose bleeds and a low level of white blood cells in the blood.

Enlargement of the spleen is quite common towards the end of the first week, and it may become a serious lung infection.

Headaches can also be so severe that meningitis may be suggested.

Towards the end of the first week, a coma or even stupor can result in severe cases.

The second week will be like having acute pneumonia with continuous high fever, headaches, a cough.

Complications in the form of liver inflammation, heart muscle inflammation, joint inflammation, and keratoconjunctivitis may occasionally occur.

Although Psittacosis is a serious disease, fatalities have been reported in less than 1% of cases in humans.

Psittacosis Treatment

If you think your bird has Psittacosis, you have to take it to a vet, even though diagnosis is tough. Blood tests will be taken, and exposure history will be questioned.

Treatment should begin right away and is usually in the form of antibiotics. This should only be done by an avian vet.  You should also get any birds that have been exposed to your sick bird treated as well.

You will also possibly need to go onto a course of antibiotics.

How To Prevent Psittacosis

There are several things that you can do to make sure that you prevent any of your birds from getting Psittacosis.

You should always take your new pet birds to the vet and should isolate them from other birds for at least 6 weeks to make sure that nothing develops. You should also only get your pet birds from a supplier that has a good reputation.

As you can see from the previous paragraph, it is possible for humans to get Psittacosis. If you are sick or elderly or have an immunosuppressing condition, you are going to be at high risk.

If you have lots of exposure to birds and have developed something that seems like a prolonged flue, you are going to want to talk to your doctor about your exposure to birds and see if this could be the cause of your ailment.

Remember as well that good hygiene plays a very important role. Be sure to wash your hands carefully after handling your pet bird or anything that comes into contact with your pet bird. This will ensure, hopefully, you will never have the need to know what is Psittacosis in the first place.

what is psittacosisIf birds are kept as pets, clean the cage often so that droppings do not accumulate or dry up, creating particles that become airborne.

Test and/or separate birds that have been in contact with other birds outside the home to reduce the chance of bird-to-bird spread.

If you bring a new bird into your home, isolate it for six weeks before you allow it to come into contact with your other birds, just to be sure.

If you have anything to add to this post about what is Psittacosis, please feel free to comment below.

Find out more about cockatiel illness here.


  1. My cockatiel might be ill. He’s only 3 months old, and I got him around 5 days ago. He doesn’t have any discharges, nor does he vomit, but he isn’t very active and fluffs up for most of the day. He doesn’t tweet at all, and he sneezes a LOT. They don’t feel like wet sneezes, but when he does sneeze, he sneezes like 5 times at a time. He seems tired for the majority of the day, and still eats and drinks his water regularly. I can’t tell whether he’s just adjusting to his new environment, or whether he’s actually in some way. Another issue is that my dad ABSOLUTELY refuses to take him to the vet, and if there is any treatment to make him feel better, does anyone have any?

    1. Sorry to hear you are so worried. At least the cockatiel is still eating and drinking which is a good sign. Sometimes when moved to a new environment they do look puffed up for a while until they settle in. Make sure he isn’t in a draft. It might help to purchase some vitamins to help perk him up. The pet shop normally sells the one that you mix with his water and hopefully that will perk him up a bit. Take him to the pet shop with you if you can as they will also be able to see whether or not the bird is sick or not.

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