Psittacosis – health advice to bird owners

Public Health England (PHE) is working with South Gloucestershire Council and Bristol City Council to investigate a confirmed case of psittacosis in an individual from Bristol.

Psittacosis is primarily an infection of birds, but can cause pneumonia and other severe health problems in humans. Human infection is usually due to exposure to infected pet birds, such as cockatiels, budgies, other members of the parrot family and pigeons.

Bristol City Council has been in touch with residents living close to the individual who kept the birds, to inform them of the situation and any necessary action to be taken.

The birds kept by the individual have been sold on from a local pet business in South Gloucestershire. There is no evidence that the business is the original source of the infection and the owner is supporting Public Health England and partners with actions to protect public health.

PHE are using this as an opportunity to make the new owners aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease in the birds and themselves.

Sick birds may show signs of sleepiness, shivering, weight loss, breathing difficulties and diarrhoea. Not all birds that are infected will show these signs. Birds can also have a latent infection where they appear healthy and do not show any initial symptoms but they can show symptoms later.

As a precaution, people with concerns relating to birds they have recently purchased (between 28 May and 3 June) are advised to contact their vet to discuss what next steps to take with regards to their bird’s health.

Mike Wade, Deputy Director of Health Protection for Public Health England South West said:

“Members of the public who may have come into contact with birds need to be assured that severe illness as a result of infection from this bacteria is rare.

“However, it is important that those individuals are aware of signs and symptoms and discuss any concerns they may have with their GP.”

In humans, the signs and symptoms of psittacosis appear within four to 30 days after exposure but commonly occur after 10 days.

Symptoms include, fever, chills, cough, weakness or fatigue, muscle and chest, pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, headaches, sweating and abnormal intolerance to light.

For more information about psittacosis, please visit https://www.gov.uk/psittacosis