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What is Psittacosis?

Parrot disease / parrot fever / ornithosis / chlamydophila psittaci infection Chlamydia psittaci infection / chlamydiosis

Psittacosis is an infection caused by Chlamydia psittaci, a type of bacteria found in the droppings of birds such as pigeons. When bird droppings dry and become airborne people may inhale them and get sick. Symptoms usually develop within 10 days after exposure, below are is a list of possible signs of infection:

  • Classically, it presents as pneumonia with flu-like symptoms
  • Fever and chills with lassitude
  • It may develop mildly and insidiously or develop into overwhelming sepsis with acute respiratory failure
  • Respiratory symptoms - non-productive cough, dyspnoea, sore throat, nose bleeds and, rarely, pleuritic chest pain
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms occur less often
  • In rare cases, the disease causes nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and jaundice
  • Neurological symptoms are common - particularly severe headache and also photophobia. It may cause agitation or extreme malaise
  • Dermatological manifestations - facial macular rash known as Horder spots


Antibiotics will be subscribed; treatment is normally given for 2-3 weeks to lower the risk of relapse. Patients normally show a response within 24-72 hours. Patients who have severe disease may need to be managed in high dependency or intensive treatment units and given intravenous fluids, respiratory support and cardiovascular support.

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