Psittacosis, a respiratory bacterial infection, also known as parrot fever, has killed five people across Europe this year. The infection of birds caused by Chlamydophila psittaci (C. psittaci), can also be passed on to humans if they happen to inhale particles from their feathers or dry faeces. Due to the illness, four people have died in Denmark and one in the Netherlands; dozens more have been hospitalised across Austria, Germany and Sweden, as per World Health Organization (WHO). People infected with parrot may have pneumonia-like symptoms including cough, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. Fever, muscle ache, headache and gastronomical symptoms may also appear. (Also read | Indians suffered worse post Covid lung damage than others, says study; how to improve lung function)

While parrot fever symptoms in people can vary significantly, they frequently include fever, headache, chills, muscle pains, coughing, dyspnoea, and symptoms similar to pneumonia. (Unsplash)
While parrot fever symptoms in people can vary significantly, they frequently include fever, headache, chills, muscle pains, coughing, dyspnoea, and symptoms similar to pneumonia. (Unsplash)

It is rare for people to spread the bacteria that causes psittacosis to other humans and there is a low likelihood of further human-to-human transmission of the disease, as per WHO. If correctly diagnosed, this pathogen is treatable by antibiotics.

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“Parrot fever, also known as psittacosis, is a rare but potentially serious bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci. This infection primarily affects birds, especially parrots, pigeons, and poultry, but it can also be transmitted to humans through inhaling airborne particles contaminated with the bacteria,” says Dr Neha Rastogi, Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

“Chlamydia psittaci, a rare infectious disease, is the cause of parrot fever, sometimes referred to as psittacosis. Birds are the main victims, particularly parrots, pigeons, and chickens, but humans who come into touch with diseased birds or their droppings may also become ill. Humans may catch parrot fever by breathing in airborne particulates contaminated with the bacteria, such as dust from feathers or droppings from birds. The illness can also be transmitted by direct contact with diseased birds or their secretions,” says Dr Saibal Chakravorty, Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine, Metro Hospital Noida.


“While parrot fever symptoms in people can vary significantly, they frequently include fever, headache, chills, muscle pains, coughing, dyspnoea, and symptoms similar to pneumonia. In extreme situations, it may result in consequences including myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, or other neurological symptoms,” says Dr Chakravorty.

Dr Rastogi shares in detail symptoms, causes and treatment of parrot fever:

Respiratory symptoms: Parrot fever commonly presents with symptoms resembling pneumonia, including cough, difficulty breathing, and chest pain.

Fever and chills: Patients may experience high fever accompanied by chills and sweats.

Muscle aches and fatigue: Generalized weakness, muscle aches, and fatigue are common symptoms.

Headache and body aches: Individuals with parrot fever may experience headaches and body aches similar to those seen in flu-like illnesses.

Gastrointestinal symptoms: Some patients may develop gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.


Bacterial transmission: Parrot fever is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci, which infects birds. Humans usually contract the infection by inhaling dried bird droppings, respiratory secretions, or feather dust contaminated with the bacteria.

Direct contact: Although less common, transmission can occur through direct contact with infected birds or their tissues, such as during cleaning cages or handling infected birds.


Antibiotics: Treatment typically involves antibiotics, such as doxycycline or tetracycline, which are effective against Chlamydia psittaci. These antibiotics are usually administered orally for a period of two to three weeks.

Symptomatic relief: Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate fever, muscle aches, and headaches.

Supportive care: Adequate rest, hydration, and a nutritious diet can support the body’s immune system in fighting the infection.

Prevention: Proper hygiene practices, such as washing hands thoroughly after handling birds or cleaning their cages, and avoiding inhaling dust from bird feathers or droppings, can help prevent the transmission of parrot fever.

“Doctors may prefer antibiotics depending on the severity of the condition for treating parrot fever. When it comes to eliminating the Chlamydia psittaci bacteria, these medications are typically effective. Depending on the extent of the infection and the patient’s reaction to treatment, the duration of antibiotic therapy may reach several weeks. To treat parrot fever symptoms and consequences, supportive care may be needed in addition to medications. This can entail taking drugs that lower the symptoms, suppressing the cough, and getting enough water. Those who handle animals or birds in work environments like aviaries or poultry farms, should take care to avoid contracting diseases in the future. This entails washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with sick birds, and should wear gloves, and masks when cleaning bird cages or attending to unwell birds,” says Dr Chakravorty.


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