Chlamydophila psittaci

Background

Psittacosis is an infection of birds caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci, previously known as Chlamydia psittaci.

Chlamydophila psittaci can be found in a range of birds, in particular:

  • parrots
  • cockatiels
  • budgies
  • parakeets
  • ducks
  • turkeys
  • pigeons

In the UK, cases are rare, and most likely occur among owners of pet birds and those with jobs that expose them to birds, such as:

  • vets
  • those working on poultry farms

Some strains of Chlamydophila may affect sheep, goats or cattle, causing chronic infection or abortion, and the bacteria is one of the major causes of infectious abortion in sheep in the UK and can affect people working with these animals.

Infection occurs through inhalation of aerosolised bacteria from bird faeces, feather dust or respiratory secretions.

The incubation period is one to four weeks. Typically infection causes flu-like symptoms, but can lead to pneumonia and non-respiratory health problems. Infection can be severe especially when untreated in elderly or immunocompromised individuals.

Guidance

Advice for pregnant women to avoid animals that are giving birth is available on our website.

Advice is also available for pregnant women on reducing the risk of Chlamydophila infection associated with sheep and lambing, this can be found on the NHS inform website.