Psittacosis is a respiratory tract infection brought about by the Chlamydia psittaci organism. The usual sources of psittacosis include parrots, parakeets, cockatiels and macaws especially those that have been smuggled. Turkeys and pigeons are other potential sources of the disease.
In most cases, the disease spreads to humans upon inhaling the airborne dust particles from the dried bird feces. Remember that birds do not have to be sick to spread the disease.
The transmission from one individual to another is uncommon. Luckily, the infection rarely occurs among children. The incubation period is usually a week or 2 but can be longer.
What are the indications?
Children with psittacosis usually have mild flu-like symptoms that often include:
- Non-productive cough
- Generalize feeling of being sick
In some cases, pneumonia can even develop. On rare occasions, complications such as inflammation of the liver, brain, heart and lining of the heart can occur. In case the child has any of these symptoms that do not improve over several days and has been exposed to pet birds, get in touch with a doctor.
Children with psittacosis are managed using azithromycin if younger than 8 years and doxycycline if older. With proper treatment, most cases can fully recover from the infection.
- Among those who have pet birds, make sure that the cages are regularly cleaned so that their droppings will not buildup and become airborne.
- Only buy birds from a credible breeder or importer.
- Birds that are suspected to be the source of the infection should be assessed and treated by a veterinarian and might require antibiotics.
- Food bowls, cages and water bowls that might be contaminated must be thoroughly disinfected using a household disinfectant such as bleach or detergent before used again.