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What is psittacosis?

Psittacosis is an infection in birds from bacteria called Chlamydia psittaci. Birds that are exposed to these bacteria spread the disease in their feces. People and other birds get sick by breathing in the air that has bacteria in it from the dry bird droppings. The bacteria are too small to see, but they can still make people and birds sick. People may also become sick after a bird bites, or touches a person's mouth with its beak, or contact with a bird's feathers. Sick birds may also spread disease through a runny nose and eyes.

Birds usually get sick from psittacosis. Infected birds may appear to be 'off balance' or 'depressed,' and stop eating. They may also get ruffled feathers, eye or breathing problems, and their droppings may change in color or shape. Psittacosis in birds can be treated with antibiotics. If you think your bird has any of these symptoms, take it to a veterinarian right away. Some birds can seem healthy while carrying the disease, so it's important to have all new birds examined and tested by a veterinarian.

People and Psittacosis

Psittacosis in humans can be serious enough to cause pneumonia. Some people feel like they have the flu, with fever and chills, headaches, weakness, body aches, and a cough. Other people may have trouble breathing. If you or anyone in your family develops these symptoms, see a doctor right away. Don't forget to tell your doctor that you own a bird.

What can you do?

Buy only healthy birds

When you bring a new bird home, keep it separate from other birds and watch it closely for 30 days. Always have any new birds examined by a veterinarian.

Clean carefully

When you clean your bird's cage, keep feathers, dust and droppings from mixing into the air. Anything that touches bird droppings should be disinfected. Then use hot, soapy water, followed by clear water to rinse.

Clean your bird's cage often

For extra protection, you can wear a dust mask when cleaning your bird's cage. Because you can breathe in dried droppings, change the paper in your bird's cage often. Always wash your hands with soap and water when you finish cleaning the cage.

Birds are fun pets when you learn how to enjoy them safely.