How To Prevent Infections From Animals

Preventing Parrot Fever

Parrot fever is extremely rare, and is highly treatable with antibiotics.

Parrots, parakeets, macaws, cockatiels, and lovebirds can all carry the bacterium that spreads parrot fever. More common birds, such as pigeons and doves, can also be carriers. Outbreaks of parrot fever have also occurred in turkey-processing plants. People become infected when they inhale bird remnants, including shed feathers or dust from dried bird droppings, even if the bird itself is not present.

If you've been infected with the parrot fever bug, you will start showing symptoms in about five to 14 days. A moderate case of parrot fever will cause appetite loss and give you a headache, fever, chills, fatigue, and cough. If left untreated, parrot fever can lead to pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) and affect the liver. Antibiotics will take care of most cases of parrot fever, and the vast majority of infected people recover completely.

The Culprit

The bacterium Chlamydia psittaci is the cause of parrot fever.

Who's at Risk?

Parrot fever is very rare; in fact, only about 100 to 200 cases are reported each year in the United States. Most at risk are people who handle birds regularly, such as those who have pet birds, pet shop owners, and zookeepers. The elderly and people with weakened immune systems might develop a more severe case of parrot fever.

Defensive Measures

If you have a pet bird, keep an eagle eye on your feathery friend. Although some birds infected with C. psittaci show no symptoms, some do show signs of illness. Birds with avian psittacosis are lethargic, won't eat, and have ruffled feathers, diarrhea, runny eyes and nose, and green or yellow-green urine. If your bird shows these signs, avoid handling it as much as possible, and visit your vet to get some antibiotics.

You should also clean the birdcage regularly, but be careful when doing so. Wearing a mask and gloves will help protect you from potentially infectious materials. Clean the cage with a disinfectant to kill any harmful bacteria that might be lingering there.

Animal infections like tetanus, rabies, cat scratch fever and parrot fever can be prevented even though you interact with your household pets every day. Take measures to stop aggressive behavior by or toward animals around you, and you'll decrease the risk of animal bites. In addition, follow the simple steps outlined in this article, and you are your pets will live in perfect harmony.


Laurie L. Dove is an award winning Kansas-based journalist and author whose work has been published internationally. A dedicated consumer advocate, Dove specializes in writing about health, parenting, fitness and travel. An active member of the National Federation of Press Women, Dove also is the former owner of a parenting magazine and a weekly newspaper.


Dr. Larry Lutwick is a Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York - Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, New York and Director of Infectious Diseases, Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Health Care System, Brooklyn Campus.  He is also Bacterial Diseases Moderator for the real time online infectious diseases surveillance system, Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED-mail) and has authored more than 100 medical articles and 15 book chapters. He has edited two books on infectious diseases.

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