A zoonotic disease is a disease which can be passed from an animal to humans. When a vet starts talking about catching Chlamydia from your pet parrot it may bring some strange images to mind. Chlamydia can be passed from a parrot to a person through aerosols from the respiratory system or from faeces or even feather dust! So a sneeze or even sharing a cracker could be contagious.
Chlamydia psittaci is a bacteria that can chronically infect birds respiratory tract (lungs, throat, nasal cavity and even eyes). Some birds can even be carriers and show no clinical signs. If a bird is showing clinical signs of the disease the most common symptoms are being fluffed up and quiet, sneezing, runny eyes and diarrhoea. In people the most common sign is respiratory disease, symptoms such as a chronic cough and sneezing.
There is an old fable in the vet world about a man who was driving a car load of budgies to a show across the state. Half way there he started coughing badly, a week later the cough still hadn’t gone away. After many trips to the doctor he still remained undiagnosed and it was thought he may be suffering from some form of asthma. This went on for months until one of his budgies got sick and went to the vet. He was telling the vet about how sick he had been for months on end and the vet diagnosed him with Psittacosis (Chlamydia). While this may just be a way for us vets to feel we have one over the doctors there is a good moral to the story!
The good news is not all of our pet parrots are secretly planning on infecting us with this disease, and transmission to people is not common. We advise that all birds showing sign of respiratory problem be tested for Chlamydia, not only to ensure they get better but also to prevent it spreading to people. The test only requires one drop of blood and generally takes 1 week to get results. Treatment consists of a prolonged course of a special antibiotic given in the water. If you have any health concerns about your pet bird please feel free to contact the clinic for more information, and remember if you’ve been sick and have a pet bird be sure to mention it your doctor!