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Psittacosis

Definition

Psittacosis is an infection caused by Chlamydophila psittaci, a type of bacteria found in the droppings of birds. Birds spread the infection to humans.

Alternative Names

Ornithosis; Chlamydia psittaci

Causes

Psittacosis is a rare disease. Only 100 to 200 cases are reported each year in the United States.

Bird owners, pet shop employees, persons who work in poultry processing plants, and veterinarians are at increased risk for this infection. Typical birds involved are parrots, parakeets, and budgerigars, although other birds have also caused the disease.

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will hear abnormal lung sounds such as crackles and decreased breath sounds when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.

Tests include:

Treatment

The infection is treated with antibiotics. Doxycycline is used first. Other antibiotics that may be prescribed include:

  • Macrolides
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Other tetracycline antibiotics

Note: Tetracycline and doxycycline by mouth are usually not prescribed for children until after all their permanent teeth have started to grow in, because they can permanently discolor teeth that are still forming. These medicines are also not prescribed to pregnant women. Other antibiotics are used in these situations.

Outlook (Prognosis)

A full recovery is expected if you do not have any other conditions that affect your health.

Possible Complications

  • Brain involvement
  • Decreased lung function as a result of the pneumonia
  • Heart valve infection
  • Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Antibiotics are needed to treat this infection. If you develop symptoms of psittacosis, call your health care provider.

Prevention

Avoid exposure to birds that may carry these bacteria, such as imported parakeets. Medical problems that lead to a weak immune system increase your risk for this disease and should be treated appropriately.

References

Limper AH. Overview of pneumonia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 97.

Torres A. Pyogenic bacterial pneumonia and lung abscess. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus CV, Martin TR, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 32.


Review Date: 8/25/2014
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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