can my bird make me sick

Feathered pets are fascinating additions to the family, not to mention an incredible hobby. A 2022 report estimates that the total number of companion birds kept in Australia is approximately 3.9 million, with just over 1 million households (10.5%) owning at least one bird ?[1]?. However, despite this popularity, bird owners need to be aware that, although their pets might be highly intelligent and fun companions, they can sometimes make people sick (this is called ‘zoonotic disease’). This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep birds, but it does mean you need to be aware of the potential risks, how to avoid them, and what to do if your bird does make you sick.

Psittacosis and chlamydiosis ?[2, 3]?

Chlamydia psittaci infection is the cause of the disease known as pustacosis in humans. Human infection typically occurs after inhaling aerosols from sneezing or feces from C-infected birds. psittaci (though recent cases have demonstrated that horses can also transmit the disease) The illness is known as psittacosis in humans and chlamydiosis in birds.

There have been two outbreaks of this disease, in 1996 in Bright, Victoria, and in 2002 in Blue Mountains, New South Wales. The sources of infection were identified as the aerosolization of wild bird droppings during lawn mowing and the subsequent inhalation of this dust. Despite this, direct contact with parrots is still thought to be the primary route for transmission to humans.

Although a bird may carry the infection without exhibiting any symptoms, this will typically alter due to the stress of adjusting to a new environment (new home, new birds, etc.). ). In these cases, infected birds may have signs such as:

  • “Sick bird look”: plumped up, silent, closed eyes, resting on the cage floor, and lack of appetite
  • Diarrhoea and excessive urination. Urine and urates (the white portion of the droppings) are frequently green.
  • Sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose. This discharge frequently mattes the feathers around the eyes, which the bird can brush off by rubbing their face against the perch or cage wall.
  • Sometimes a bird will pass away unexpectedly without exhibiting any symptoms of illness.

Purchase birds only from reliable vendors, and as soon as possible after purchase, have them examined by an avian veterinarian. You can have them tested for this disease by your veterinarian. Additionally, you should quarantine new birds for a minimum of several weeks after acquiring them. During this time, you should give the bird a check-up, have any diseases tested, treat any parasites, and allow the bird to get used to its new surroundings.

If your bird exhibits symptoms, you should take it to an avian veterinarian and suspect chlamydiosis. Diagnosis is made following a series of diagnostic tests. Many times, treating infected birds can make them better, but they still need to be kept apart, given a lengthy course of antibiotics, and have their cages cleaned.

Psittacosis in Australia is considered to be a rare disease. In Australia, 1687 cases of psittacosis were reported between 2001 and 2014. But rather than not existing, this rarity might have more to do with infections in patients receiving incorrect diagnoses. According to reports, older men are the most vulnerable group.

Five to twenty-one days after being exposed to the infection source, an infected person may exhibit symptoms of illness. Although they might not have any symptoms, the majority exhibit mild flu-like symptoms. This can worsen into a severe illness in infected individuals, characterized by an abrupt onset of headache, fever, chills, malaise, and muscle pain. Additionally, pneumonia can manifest as a productive cough that is accompanied by dyspnea and tightness in the chest. In rare cases, death can occur. People should consult a physician if they experience these symptoms shortly after acquiring a new bird.

A chest x-ray and the collection of blood or respiratory samples to check for bacteria are examples of diagnostic procedures. Antibiotics are used as a treatment for up to two weeks. Because immunity after infection is sporadic and insufficient, reinfection is a common occurrence.

It is important to keep your birds’ enclosure clean in order to stop the spread of this bacteria. When cleaning an enclosure, always wear a face mask, especially if a new bird is housed there.

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also referred to as “bird fancier’s lung,” “bird breeder’s lung,” “pigeon breeder’s lung,” and “poultry worker’s lung,” is a respiratory condition brought on by an allergic reaction to dust and chemicals inhaled [4]. Dried feces, feather dust, and even bird bacteria are some of the sources of this dust. Due to their jobs, people with this illness are frequently exposed to this dust (e g. , veterinarians), hobbies (e. g. , bird keeping), the environment (e. g. , a dirty cage or aviary), and the birds themselves.

The majority of patients with this illness typically experience weariness, weight loss, a persistent cough, and breathing problems that get worse over time. A few will experience an acute illness resembling the symptoms of psittacosis.

Inform your physician that you have birds if you experience any of these symptoms at any point.

When diagnosing individuals, a history of dust exposure and the rule out of other illnesses are typically combined.

Avoiding the cause is the best course of action because long-term exposure can result in irreversible lung damage. This can entail having to part with your birds, cleaning their cage, or spending time with them wearing a face mask. Air filters and improved ventilation may also help.

[1] Animal Medicines Australia (2022) Australia’s Pets: A National Pet and Human Survey

[2] Polkinghorne A, Weston K, Branley J (2020) Psittacosis’s recent history in Australia: enhancing our knowledge of the disease’s epidemiology, a significant worldwide zoonotic illness Intern Med J 50:246–249.

?[3] NSW Health Psittacosis control guideline. Accessed 26 Jun 2023

In 2012, Chan AL, Juarez MM, Leslie KO, Ismail HA, and Albertson TE conducted a state-of-the-art review on bird fancier’s lung. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol 43:69–83.

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Although it may seem unlikely, your bird can make you ill. People can contract a number of illnesses from birds (called zoonotic diseases). You should know how to stop the spread of these diseases for your own health.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does include the most prevalent illnesses that people who own pets can contract. Good hygiene practices are the best method of prevention!.

Those who already have chronic illnesses, such as the very young, the elderly, HIV-positive people, organ transplant recipients, and chemotherapy patients, are usually most at risk of contracting a disease from your bird. People who are at risk should discuss the relative risks of disease transmission from pet birds with their veterinarian and physician.

Most human and bird diseases can be avoided with basic hygiene. It is highly unlikely that you will get sick if you take good care of your bird’s surroundings and always wash your hands after handling your bird, his bowl, and toys. Although not all birds carry these infections, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Can you get sick from pet birds?

Chlamydia psittaci is a type of bacteria that often infects birds. Less commonly, these bacteria can infect people and cause a disease called psittacosis. Psittacosis in people is most commonly associated with pet birds, like parrots and cockatiels, and poultry, like turkeys and ducks.

Can a dirty bird cage make you sick?

Psittacosis is usually spread by inhaling dust from dried droppings from birdcages or by handling infected birds in slaughterhouses. Waste material in the birdcage may stay infectious for weeks.

What are the symptoms of psittacosis in humans?

People – Symptoms of psittacosis usually begin 5 to 14 days after exposure, but longer periods have been reported. Symptoms often include sudden fever, chills, headache, general discomfort, and muscle pain. A dry cough usually occurs and can be followed by shortness of breath and pneumonia.

Can birds cause respiratory problems in humans?

Chlamydia psittaci is a type of bacteria that often infects birds. Less commonly, these bacteria can infect people and cause a disease called psittacosis. Psittacosis can cause mild illness or pneumonia (lung infection). To help prevent this illness, follow good precautions when handling and cleaning birds and cages.