OrnithosisFabian Dupont is a freelance writer for NetDoktor's medical editorial team. The human is already for scientific work, including Belgium, Spain, Rwanda, the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand and Switzerland. His doctoral thesis focused on tropical neurology, but he is particularly interested in international health science (public health) and the comprehensible communication of medical facts.
The Ornithosis (Parrot fever) is a chlamydial infection in birds that can also affect humans. Transmission occurs mainly through parrots, corvids, Pigeons and turkeys. In humans, ornithosis leads to flu-like symptoms that can last up to a Pneumonia rich. It is rather rare in Germany. If left untreated, it can be fatal. Here you can read everything important about ornithosis.
Ornithosis (parrot disease) is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci (formerly Chlamydophila psittaci). Originally, parrot fever was thought to be transmitted exclusively by parrots. The historical name of ornithosis is derived from this amption: psittacosis, after the Greek word psittakos for parrot. It is now known that other birds can also transmit the disease. Therefore, it is now used as ornithosis (Greek. ornis = bird).
Ornithosis occurs worldwide. In industrialized nations, it seems to have increased slightly over the last decades. This change is attributed to the increased import of exotic birds. In this country, parrots and budgies – neither of which are native animals – are the most common source of infection. In second place follows the widespread pigeon, which can be found in all German cities. Ducks and turkeys can also transmit ornithosis; however, this happens less frequently.
The ornithosis is considered Occupational disease for chicken farmers, zoo workers or employees of pet shops. Even though transmission from person to person is generally possible, it is rare. However, if the disease is transmitted directly in this way, a severe course is common – the affected person becomes very ill.
In Germany, ornithosis has a Obligation to report. If a patient is infected, the physician must inform the health department of the diagnosis.
Infection route of ornithosis
Ornithosis can be contracted by inhaling infectious dust – dust containing particles of bird droppings or other secretions (eyes, nose) contaminated with Chlamydia psittaci. These bacteria are very demanding about their environment. They can survive only under very specific conditions. These are the conditions they find in the human respiratory tract. Here the bacteria successfully penetrate the cells of the lung surface, multiply and trigger an infection. In most cases, an inflammatory reaction occurs, which can even lead to pneumonia.
Droplet infection is the most common way to become infected. Rarely, smear infections also occur. In this case, ornithosis is transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or their feces.
Not all people who become infected with the ornithosis bacterium also develop symptoms. But if they do, it is usually one to two weeks after infection. This period of time between infection. Disease outbreak is called incubation period. During this time, the bacterium multiplies in the human body, without the affected person noticing anything about it.
As a rule, the first symptoms of ornithosis are flu-like – the patient suddenly develops fever, chills, headache and aching limbs. An uncharacteristic skin rash (exanthema) may be added. Dry, irritating cough, shortness of breath, shortness of breath and pain when breathing indicate pneumonia. Sore throat and swollen cervical lymph nodes are also common in ornithosis.
In severe cases, the pathogen also spreads to other organs. For example, in case of infection of the central nervous system, there is a risk of disturbances of consciousness. Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), pericarditis, and inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis) are also possible. However, such a spread of the ornithosis pathogens in the body is rare.
Ornithosis: Causes and risk factors
Ornithosis is mainly transmitted from birds to humans. However, other mammals (sheep, cats, cattle) have also been described as a source of infection. Transmission from person to person is possible in exceptional cases, but very rare.
The parrot disease occurs worldwide, but is rare overall. For example, according to the Robert Koch Institute, there were only ten cases in Germany in 2020. The number of people actually affected may be higher, however, because the disease is difficult to distinguish from common pneumonia.
People who have a lot of daily contact with exotic birds or pigeons are at increased risk for parrot fever. Contact with sick and newly imported birds is an additional risk factor. Ornithosis is more common in middle-aged people because they are most likely to have occupational contact with affected birds.
In Germany, exotic birds must be examined by a veterinarian before sale. If infestation with the psittacosis bacteria is proven, they receive three months of therapy.