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2 August 2023

Causative agent

Psittacosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Chlamydia psittaci.

Clinical features

Common symptoms include fever, chills, headache, dry cough, muscle pain, shortness of breath and often pneumonia in severe case. Encephalitis, endocarditis, myocarditis, hepatitis and sepsis are occasional complications.

Mode of transmission

The disease is usually transmitted to humans by inhaling C. psittaci from dried droppings, respiratory secretions or feather dust of infected birds. Although all birds can transmit the disease to human, pet birds, e.g. parrots, cockatiels, parakeets, macaws and poultry (turkeys and ducks) are most frequently involved. Apparently healthy birds can be carriers and shed the bacteria, particularly when subjected to stress through crowding and shipping. The disease is not normally transmitted from person to person. People of all ages can get psittacosis. Those who have contact with pet birds and poultry, including people who work in bird-related occupations, are at increased risk.

Incubation period

The incubation period typically ranges from 5 -14 days, but may be up to 4 weeks. 


Psittacosis can be treated with appropriate antibiotics effectively.


The public is advised to:

  • Maintain good personal and environmental hygiene.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling birds.
  • Seek medical treatment if symptoms develop.
  • Avoid close contact with infected birds.

People keeping birds as pets are advised to:

  • Purchase birds from licensed animal traders; never buy or adopt birds from suspicious or unknown sources
  • Keep cages clean; clean food and water bowls daily
  • Position cages so that food, feathers and faeces cannot spread between them (i.e. do not stack cages, use solid-sided cases or barriers if cages are next to each other)
  • Avoid over-crowding of birds. Maintain good ventilation in bird housing.
  • Disinfect bird cages and surfaces contaminated by bird droppings or secretions regularly.
    • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and a surgical masks, when cleaning cages, or handling droppings, secretions or feather dusts of birds;
    • Cleaning procedures should avoid creating aerosols and dust: Use water or disinfectant to wet surfaces before cleaning bird cages or contaminated surfaces. Avoid dry sweeping or using a vacuum cleaner / pressure washer to minimize circulation of feathers, dust and droppings;
    • Thoroughly scrub with a detergent to remove all faecal debris, then disinfect and rinse all items in clean running water;
    • Also remember to thoroughly wash your hands with running water and liquid soap after contact with birds or their droppings.
  • Isolate and treat infected birds. Take sick birds to a veterinarian as soon as possible.