Medical Definition of Parrot fever (psittacosis)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Parrot fever (psittacosis): An infectious disease due to a bacteria (Chlamydia psittaci) contracted from psittacine birds, especially caged birds like parrots, parakeets, and lovebirds and also in turkey processing plants.

The bacteria enter the human body by inhalation of air that contains it or by a bite from an infected bird. The incubation period is 1 to 3 weeks after exposure to the onset of symptoms.

The signs and symptoms of the disease include fever and chills. ill feeling (malaise), loss of appetite, cough and shortness of breath.

The diagnosis is made by recovering the bacteria in the laboratory from the patient's blood or sputum.

Treatment includes an antibiotic such as tetracycline. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, the disease is usually over in a week or two.

To avoid the disease, avoid dust from bird feathers and cage contents and do not handle a sick bird.

The name psittacosis comes from the Greek "psittakos" meaning parrot.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2017

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