Florida DOH Promotes Psittacosis Prevention In Pet Birds

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Florida Department of Health (DOH) joins the Florida Department of Agriculture in investigating bacterial infections in birds testing positive for psittacosis at several pet stores nationwide. Forty-six states have received birds from a Florida vendor which appears to be the source of the infected birds. One bird in Florida testing positive but showing no symptoms for Chlamydophila psittaci has been linked to this vendor. Three suspected human cases in employees at a single pet store in Minnesota have been linked to these birds.

State Public Health Veterinarians and other health and agriculture officials have been notified, and impacted pet stores have received guidance. The vendor's local county health department and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are working together with the vendor to review management practices.

Psittacosis is a relatively common infection in birds caused by the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci. Although many avian species can be affected, parrot-like birds such as cockatiels, parakeets and macaws, are particularly vulnerable. Infected birds may be less active, stop eating, ruffle their feathers, have discharge from the eyes and nose, or have abnormal droppings. Some birds will not display symptoms but can still spread the bacteria, especially following stresses such as introduction into a new home, shipping and chilling. Infected birds can be treated with antibiotics. A veterinarian should be consulted for testing and treatment procedures.

People with prolonged contact with birds, such as pet store workers and bird owners, are at greatest risk of infection, though the disease is not commonly reported. The disease can also be more severe in pregnant women and the elderly. Chlamydophila psittaci can be spread in the droppings and nasal discharges of infected birds. Symptoms in people are flu-like in most cases and may include fever, chills, headache, cough and muscle-ache. Bird owners or workers that develop flu-like symptoms should consult their physician for testing and appropriate antibiotic treatment. Psittacosis must be reported to both the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Prevention and control recommendations for bird owners include:

Contact a physician if respiratory or flu-like illness develops or for any other health concerns and mention bird ownership

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Discuss bird health issues with a veterinarian

Clean cages regularly before droppings dry and create potentially infectious dust

When cleaning cages, remove the bird from the cage, wet droppings with a disinfectant or dilute bleach solution and allow 5-10 minutes contact time before cleaning

Wash hands well after cleaning cages or handling birds

Keep birds and cages in a well-ventilated area

Only purchase birds which look healthy

Isolate new birds for 30 days before placing them near other birds

Owners of potentially exposed birds should consult their health care provider with health-related questions or concerns and should contact a veterinarian if pet birds appear ill.

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