Chlamydiosis is a disease caused by the bacteria-like organism Chlamydia psittaci. This is a similar bacteria to Chlamydia trachomatis, a cause of venereal disease in people, but behaves much differently. Other names for the disease include psittacosis, parrot fever, and ornithosis.
Chlamydiosis can be spread to people. Usually, the very young and very old, people on immunosuppressive medications or with immunosuppressive diseases are most at risk. Proper precautions must be taken when treating a bird with chlamydiosis.
The bacteria is spread from an infected bird in its droppings and respiratory secretions (ie. sneezing and coughing). A bird is infected by ingesting contaminated material or by inhaling the bacteria.
Chlamydial infections can cause varied clinical signs in birds. Birds with symptoms suggestive of chlamydiosis are most often birds that have been recently purchased or recently exposed to large groups of other birds.
Watch for general signs of disease like lethargy, loss or appetite and weight loss. Look also for signs of respiratory tract disease like difficulty in breathing, discharge from the nostrils, swelling of the tissues around the eyes or discharge from the eyes.
Watch also for signs of digestive tract or liver problems such as loss of appetite, diarrhea or yellowish or greenish discoloration of the urates and urine.
The bird's history and physical examination can provide clues as to whether your bird may be infected. There are several tests available to the avian veterinarian that can better diagnose the disease. Chlamydia lives inside cells, and for this reason the disease can be difficult to diagnose. No test is 100 percent accurate for diagnosing chlamydiosis. Therefore, your veterinarian must decide the best way of testing your bird. Diagnostic tests might include:
Treatment must be supervised by an avian veterinarian. Treatment usually takes 30 to 45 days, or longer. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best way to treat your bird. The most common treatments are:
There are several things you should do at home:
There are several things you can do to prevent your bird from chlamidiosis.
Chlamydia psittaci is the causative agent of psittacosis. It is classified as a bacteria even though it can only replicate when inside a cell, which is characteristic of a virus. Most species of free-ranging and domestic birds are considered to be susceptible to some strain of C. psittaci, and some strains of C. psittaci have also been associated with disease in humans, cats, koala bears, marine mammals, sheep and many other mammals.
Humans are susceptible to at least three different species of chlamydia (C. psittaci, C. pneumonia and C. trachomatis). Until the 1980s, C. psittaci was considered a relatively common cause of upper respiratory tract disease in humans. In the 1980s, researchers found that most cases of suspected C. psittaci in humans were actually caused by C. pneumonia. Thus, literature concerning C. psittaci infections in humans prior to the 1980s is of limited value. C. psittaci and C. pneumonia both cause a flu-like illness in humans.