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Parrot Fever—It's Not Just for the Birds

Don't tell Jimmy Buffett, but the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) is concerned about parrot fever—but not the margarita-sipping, hip-wiggling variety.

Parrot fever, or psittacosis, is transmitted to humans from birds, particularly pet parrots, and can cause flu-like symptoms. According to the NASPHV, infection usually occurs when a person inhales the organism Chlamydia psittaci after it has been aerosolized from the dried feces or respiratory secretions of infected birds. Exposure can also occur from mouth-to-beak contact and the handling of infected birds' feathers or tissues.

Only 813 cases of psittacosis were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1988 and 1998, so there's no need to panic. But shelter employees who handle birds should be aware of the risks of parrot fever, and should be careful when handling birds who show symptoms of infection. Symptoms include lethargy, weight loss, ruffled feathers, ocular or nasal discharge, and diarrhea. Birds with confirmed or probable infection should be isolated and treated under the supervision of a veterinarian.

 

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